In The Kitchen: The Best Homemade Pancakes

There is nothing I love more than breakfast for dinner.  Who says you can’t have pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage and eggs anytime you want them?  Around here, anything goes as long as I feel like cooking it.

Now, I’ve always been a Bisquick girl, trusting the mix that my mom used for years for making my own biscuits, pancakes and other fun recipes.  However, I only will buy that stuff when it’s on sale, because it isn’t cheap otherwise.  I know there existed recipes on the Internet for homemade pancakes, and I know even family members who have made them from total scratch, but it was something I never tried. That is, until now!  Ladies and gents, I have found the perfect homemade “from scratch” pancake recipe.  It makes the fluffiest, most tender and tasty pancakes I’ve ever stuffed into my face.  That Bisquick stuff?  It’s H.I.S.T.O.R.Y!!

Credit where credit is due, this is the link to the actual recipe and the culinary genius who developed it.  For the sake of ease, I will post the ingredients and instructions below.  Seriously, you HAVE to try these.  If you’re a Bisquick hold out like I was, you will never go back, because these are so good, the other pancakes taste like sawdust with syrup.  Trust me on this!

The Best Pancake Recipe EVER!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp butter melted

Instructions:

  1. Melt the butter in microwave for 30 seconds, set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  3. Stir milk and egg together.
  4. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture.
  5. Pour the butter and milk mixture into the well.
  6. Use a wire whisk to stir everything together until just combined. It will be slightly thick and lumpy, but should be well incorporated.
  7. Allow the batter to rest while heating a lightly oiled skillet or griddle to medium high heat.
  8. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.
  9. Cook each side for 3-6 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

 

This recipe should make 10 fluffy pancakes if you use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop the batter.  You could also use a batter dispenser (click this link for more information) to achieve the same results.

If you try this recipe, let me know in the comment section how you liked it!

Happy eating!

Disclaimer: This post contains a link to an affiliated company for whom I sell products. If you purchase an item using that link, I will receive a commission on your purchase.  I thank you for your support!

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Ten Reasons Why Cats Are Better Than Children – A Case of Sour Grapes

This is a Top Ten list I wrote a few years ago and published on my Cat Blog. Enjoy!

Life With Cats

Okay, so I am an unashamed cat mama. That said, Hubby and I didn’t happen to become parents of real, hairless, human children. So the fur children are it for us. I’ve accepted this reality and I embrace it. For this reason, and because sour grapes, I present to you my “List of reasons cats are better than kids.”

  1. Cats can’t talk, so therefore they cannot give you attitude.   Our feline friends may be among the most amicable creatures on the planet. At most, they just laze around all day, sleeping. If they actually do develop an attitude, they are unable to sass you. They just snub you and walk away. And with their cute, whiskered faces, you just can’t stay mad at them for long.
  2. You never have to bring cats to the grocery store.  This is a HUGE bonus for me!  I never have to hear…

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What I Miss About The North

Happy New Year everyone!  We made it through the holidays relatively unscathed and are looking 2018 in the face.  In sunny central Florida, January brings temporary cold snaps, increased traffic from seasonal residents, also called “Snow birds” and flaring tempers from the locals.  We have a running joke down here in the fall.. You know it’s Autumn in Florida when the license plates start changing colors.  While I despise the heavier traffic, I am thankful for the increased tourism dollars.  I know small business owners in the area love this time of year, too.

While I do enjoy the mild winters that the tropical Florida offers, I find myself missing the change of seasons that comes every three months in other parts of the country.  I was making my coffee yesterday morning and thinking about all the things I’ve been missing in the almost 14 years we’ve been in Florida.  I’d like to share my thoughts on this with you.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the white, fluffy stuff that plagues the northern US in the winter, unless of course I can stay home until the roads are clear and dry (like April?) I grew up in southern New England, so I have seen more than my share of slush, ice and dirty, old snow piled up on the side of the roads.  But I find myself missing seeing the very first crocus peeping it’s purple head out from beneath a snowy garden, awakening from the winter slumber like a bear out of hibernation.  That first sign of Spring… the crocus.  Then as the snow melts away and gives way to green grass beneath it, the daffodils and tulips are soon to follow.  And that sure, tell-tale sign that spring is just around the corner?  A robin red breast, poking around in the garden looking for unsuspecting worms.  We’d have contests to see who could find the first one.  My mom almost always won, and the robin was her favorite sign of the impending seasonal change.

Springtime, a season of rebirth, regrowth and new life.  Trees form buds and leaves sprout forth, covering the branches in tender new life.  The dogwood tree on our front lawn blossomed every year with gorgeous pink and white flowers.  My dad took meticulous care of it, pruning the branches with the ease and skill of a professional.  And after we were married, my husband would buy me a rose bush, instead of a bouquet, for Valentine’s Day.  We’d go plant it in the garden and watch it produce the most delicate, fabulously red, velvety roses, year after year.  But my favorite flowers are lilies, star-gazers to be exact.  I had never planted flowers from bulbs before I moved to Oregon, but I found myself with the prettiest, biggest blooms on those bushes even in the first year.  And they kept just getting bigger and fuller.

I miss the smell of lilacs in the air, and seeing pussy willows growing in our backyard.  We had a raspberry bush by our 15 foot pool in the back yard for years that produced the sweetest raspberries I’d ever eaten.  Every Memorial Day, my dad would open our pool; no matter how cold it was, we’d swim in it until we were water-logged and tired.  Memorial Day was also the day he broke out the grill and used it for the first time since the winter settled in the year before. There is nothing like a hot dog (especially if it’s a Hummel’s hot dog) or burger cooked on a grill, with home-made baked beans and Mom’s potato salad.

June brings the first day of Summer, and the warmer weather that northerners claim to live for.  Trips to the beach, sand castles, dipping toes into the still chilly Long Island Sound, and eventually swimming to escape the summer temperatures.  In Oregon, we’d head to the river and swim in mountain snow run-off, which was a welcome respite from the dry heat of summer.  That water was easily 50 degrees, and about half an hour into the swim, you’d realize you were numb from the cold.  Oddly, I don’t remember my teeth chattering though.  Independence Day celebrations always included a trip to the beach for fireworks.  The adults would bring a cooler of Sangria, while they made sure we had kid-friendly drinks in the other cooler.  We had a favorite spot we’d sit every year, and it provided a perfect view of the fireworks.  They weren’t computerized, or synchronized to music.  They were just one shell at time, some with huge explosions that you could feel in the pit of your stomach.  The grand finale was always spectacular.

My mom had a clothes line in our backyard, and in the summer, she never used the clothes dryer.  In fact, for years we never had a working dryer.  Every morning, she would schlep into the basement and drag up at least two loads of wet laundry to hang on that clothes line.  When I was a kid, I’d go and sniff the sheets and towels as they dried, breathing in the clean, refreshing smell of summer.   No fabric softener or detergent can replicate that smell, the scent of fresh linen on a clothes line.  After we moved to Florida, Mom discovered that clothes don’t dry in the tropical humidity.  Apartment living for the past 28 years has all but erased the memory of that smell.  I miss it.

As summer fades into the cooler temperatures of fall, the leaves start to change and the trees shed their foliage for the season.  Vibrant yellows, oranges and reds litter the landscape, bringing sightseers out to take in the scenery.  The air just smells different when leaves are changing, falling and settling on lawns.  Back in the day, ambitious teenagers were seen raking and bagging leaves, often for just $5 a house.  It was the very beginning of the work season for them, as they anticipated snow shoveling in the next month or two. Every September, we would go apple picking and bring home bushels of Macintosh apples and gallons of cider.  Mom made the best apple pies I’d ever had; even now, I’ve never found another one as good as hers.  And when the numbers on the thermometer got into the lower 40s, on any given day you could smell a wood fire in a nearby fireplace.   I miss walking and hearing the shuffle of leaves as you walk through them, taking in the smell of pine cones and even having to bundle up in a sweater.  After being outside, we’d come in with naturally rosy cheeks and red noses.  Hot cocoa tastes so much better when you’ve been outside in the chill.

I know I already said I am not a huge fan of snow, but there is something about the first snow of the year. I’m not talking about flurries that don’t stick around, I’m talking those big clumps of flakes that seem to plummet to the ground at terminal velocity.  The heavy, wet snow that makes awesome snowballs and snowmen, and sticks together for sculptures (one year, my brothers made a 3/4 size race car in the snow in our back yard.  It was awesome!)  Watching the snow falling, curled up inside by a fireplace with a book or a beloved pet… this is my bliss.  The first snow is always the best, as long as it doesn’t snow when I have to be somewhere.  Around January, and 30 inches of snow later, I’m tired of it and I’m waiting for March to see the crocuses again.


For now, we’re planted here in Florida, and we will be for a season.  But when that season comes to a close and we can make it back north, we won’t have to miss all the things we’ve been without for so long.  Don’t get me wrong, Florida is truly a tropical paradise, but it’s not for everyone.  I never realized how much I miss the change living north of the tropics brings, and I can’t wait to have that back.  Someday.

**Author’s note: Links included in this article are NOT affiliate links.  I do not receive compensation from the company listed in this article. 

The Opioid Crisis, A Pain Patient’s Perspective

I am a night owl, preferring the evening hours as my most productive, although my neighbors may not like it very well if I decide to whip out the Dyson for a midnight cleaning session. I’ve always been night-oriented, although as I get older I don’t venture out after dark much anymore. But last night was not really unlike any other night except for not feeling well when I finally decided to go to bed.

I got up from my computer, grabbed the cat’s bowls and headed to the kitchen to feed them. As a fibromyalgia sufferer, I am a little more prone to odd things… earlier in the day I was having a costochondritis flare up. Costo, which causes pain along the breastbone, is very easy to mistake for more sinister illnesses, such as a heart attack. The inflammation is easy for me to differentiate… if I can make the pain worse by pressing on the painful area, it is costochondritis. Oversimplified, perhaps, but it works for me.

When I got to our kitchen pass-through, I dropped off the cat bowls and brought my phone and other stuff back to the bedroom. Hubby was not quite asleep, despite him having gone to bed hours prior. I walked back to the kitchen to begin feeding the ‘kids’ their bedtime meal when I felt the chest pain start. But this time, it was accompanied by shortness of breath. Still, I wasn’t sure I needed to head out to the ER, but as the time progressed over the next few minutes my mind quickly changed.

I finished feeding the cats while hubby dragged his poor, tired self out of bed (bless his heart!!) and got dressed. I then consulted my online nemesis, WebMD, and finished thoroughly freaking myself out. Considering my family history, I tend not to mess around with chest pain, even if I suspect it’s nothing serious. Better to find out it’s nothing than to do nothing and find out too late I should have gone.

Upon arriving at the emergency room, there were few people waiting around, and since cases like mine usually take priority, I didn’t figure we’d be mingling in the “gen pop” very long. We approached the desk to check in, and I kid you not, the person behind the counter looked at both of us, hubby probably looking more like the sick one, asked us which one of us was sick, grabbed her things and said goodnight to the rent a cop sitting behind her. I looked at hubby… Really? I mouthed to him. He nudged me and told me to be patient. Ironically, I was the patient. Not what he meant, but okay.

A half hour later, we were in a room in the back. My first EKG was looking normal, a preliminary good sign. The nurse set up a Roto-Rooter in my left arm, choosing a vein that is deceptively awful for doing IVs. After getting samples from that port, she quickly decided, after my painful protesting, that she’d try a new spot for the IV. Next was a chest X-ray followed by a healthy dose of waiting.

About 90 minutes into this ordeal, there was a near panic among the medical staff about a patient outside. My first thought was, Oh great… this is going to delay us getting out of here any time soon. However, it quickly became clear they were dealing with a drug overdose, as the nurses rushed the man, gasping for air on the gurney, toward the trauma unit, and another nurse yelling for Narcan. Suddenly my piddly problems seemed so minute as this unknown person struggled for life a few rooms away. Thank God, the Narcan worked like it was supposed to, and saved another life from ending too soon to an epidemic that touches every family somewhere in this country.

Long story short (and since I finally reached my true topic at hand), after blood tests, a CT angiography, nitroglycerin pills, a morphine shot that I thought was actually going to kill me, half a bag of IV fluid and a GI cocktail, I was released after nearly 10 hours of being poked, prodded and fussed about. They ruled out every sinister cause of my pain, leaving me to believe it is reflux pain with a little costochondritis thrown in for good measure. I did come away from the night’s activities with a few thoughts on which I’d like to opine.

As a chronic pain patient, I keep very close eyes on what is happening around the country with the opioid problem. First are the vapid promises from politicians who are all too eager to pass sweeping legislation that will do next to nothing to solve the problems and ends up affecting (either intentionally or unintentionally) those the legislation is intended to protect. Next, and inevitably, the demonization that chases every man and woman that legitimately needs this type of medication to have any quality of life. We pain patients tend to be overlooked, fall through the cracks and painted with the same broad brush as the abusers who make our lives a living hell. For every one of me, there seems to be at least 5 people hopelessly addicted to either prescription pain medication or worse. I guess, with how this crisis is reported, it’s easy to feel forgotten, overlooked and just plain screwed (pardon the expression).

That something needs to be done is painfully obvious. But the tricky answer to this problem is…. What, exactly? The POTUS’ newest declaration of war on opioid is troubling. We can’t just marginalize chronic pain sufferers, but it is totally unacceptable that we lose another life to this national embarrassment. And speaking for the millions of fellow pain sufferers, a general ban on the “worst” drug (whatever that happens to be at any given moment) is not the answer. Street drugs like heroin are already illegal, so it seems pretty clear that the illegality of these drugs isnt making an impact. I wish I had the fix for this broken system, but I don’t.

Because people become addicted to legal pain prescriptions, I am already subjected to random urine drug screen tests several times a year, administered by a pain specialist that fortunately cares enough to pursue adequate pain treatment options. I also understand and appreciate the risk he takes to prescribe these medications to me. He always makes sure I understand the risk involved, and because I have a healthy respect (maybe even fear) for these medications, I take them exactly as prescribed. Not one pill more, but not one less than is needed to control my pain enough for me to live my life. It is a delicate balance, and looking back, a road I wish I had never taken.

I also know that, taken exactly as prescribed, the likelihood of addiction is low for chronic pain patients. That isn’t to say it doesn’t or hasn’t happened, but we are, as a demographic, less likely to abuse our pain medications. That should count for something when it comes to consideration in legislation. All we ask is to not be minimalized and forgotten in the national debate. We need someone to sit at that table on our behalf. Who will step up and speak for us?

The author is a fibromyalgia and chronic pain patient since 1999. Having exhausted all other treatment options, opioids are the treatment of last resort for many chronic pain sufferers. These patients become physically dependent on, not addicted to, these medications. There is a vast difference between dependency and addiction. It would do society and our lawmakers well to learn the difference, so that these patients can be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Happy Anniversary, My Love

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary, well my husband and me. I thought after my last post marking the tenth anniversary of my dad’s passing I would continue with the celebration of a much happier occasion.

Twenty years ago today was by far the happiest and scariest day of my life. Can we agree for a second that change is scary? Yes? Good. Happiest for obvious reasons, and scary because of how long I’d known and dated my fiancé. We met back in the early days of the Internet chat rooms and before there were dating websites like Match or eHarmony. Ironically, an ex-love interest was indirectly responsible for getting us together, as he was the one who introduced me to this chat room. My ex and my husband had a mutual acquaintance that they had both chatted with on occasion. My screen name, which over the course of several online providers and thousands of dollars in over limit fees, had seen many changes, and finally came down to my real name, first and abbreviated middle: Wendy Sue. Some of my “real life” friends from that time still call me Wendy Sue, I’m totally okay with that. Hubby’s screen name was simply “sleeplss,” without the last “e.”

After showing an initial interest in each other, he vanished from online for about a month. I not-so-secretly worried we’d never cross paths again, while he was tying up loose ends and ending other romantic interests. He knew something long before I suspected anything about the potential of our future together. We exchanged photos, one I had my mom take of me by my new car a few months previously, drove 25 miles and foolishly paid $7 to have scanned into .jpg format, and his was a professional photo. His was much more impressive than mine, I can assure you. However, when he showed my picture to his mom, she smiled and told him, “This is the kind of girl I see you with!” His other family agreed.

After a month of absence, he came looking for me in my usual places. I was delighted to see him, as my feelings toward him had mysteriously grown in the month he’d been away. I was intrigued by the blonde guy from Oregon. My folks weren’t pleased that he lived so far away, but at the time really thought nothing of it. We talked for a few months online; everyday at lunch I’d come home and chat with him, and evenings I’d call him because I had the better long distance plan (10 cents a minute! Dirt cheap!!) The more we talked without the limitations of physical appearance that can hinder an in-person relationship, the more we discovered we wanted to meet in person.

Our first date was a three day weekend trip from Florida to Oregon. I took a red eye flight with an hour layover in Vegas. I’ll admit I pondered my sanity while waiting for my connecting flight, and even considered hopping on the next plane back to Tampa. But I’d come this far, so I was determined to see it through. I had to know if the guy I had such strong feelings for was the one I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. When the plane landed in Portland at 3am local time, there he stood in the concourse with a single rose, waiting for me. It was cold, as it was January in the Pacific Northwest, and I don’t believe I stopped shivering for the next 72 hours. I met his mom the next morning as we crashed into her bed for a nap. She was as charming and lovable a person as I could have hoped for. As I napped, he slipped away and returned with a little stuffed bear holding a satin rose, which he surprised me with when I awoke. I showered and got ready to meet his friends at a casual dinner, and then off to stay at a local hotel, to get some real sleep. By Sunday we were both under the weather with a cold I probably brought with me from the airplane, and Monday was back to the airport at early o’clock for an all day travelganza. The weekend went too quickly but I knew for sure where things were headed. Before we left for the airport that morning, he played a song on the stereo for me, and he just held me. The song was “Truly,” by Lionel Richie.

When I arrived back home, I told my mom we needed to look for a wedding dress, and sooner than later. I didn’t have a promise but I had a strong feeling that when he came down to meet my family a month later, that he would propose. The next 30 days was grueling, as we counted off the days until he came to Florida. When he arrived, my folks went to pick him up, and I applaud them for taking everything in stride. Mom looked at him and said, “Hi, I’m Mom, and this is Dad,” pointing at my Dad, who was probably trying to find words for the man he knew would someday be his son in law. I remember coming home from work and seeing him sound asleep on my bed, my sweet 2 year old calico cat curled up with him. I don’t remember the date, but he wasted zero time, waiting for just the right moment. All I remember was that it was about 2am, and we were outside enjoying a balmy February night. I was sitting on the wall in front of the house, when he reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring. The next few moments were a blur, but I do remember saying “Yes!” several times.

For the remainder of the week I had him here, I took him to Disney World in Orlando. We spent a couple of days there, newly engaged and deliriously happy. I bought him a Pooh bear, which helped me give him the nickname he’s had since those early days: Honeybear. And as time has a way of doing, it went way too quickly and before we knew it, he was on his way home. We only saw each other one more time between our engagement and the wedding. This is what I meant by scary!!

I wish I could go into as much detail about our wedding day as I have the rest of our story so far, but the truth of it is, the day was a blur of activity, family, doing hair and makeup, getting the finishing touches on the reception and making sure every detail was right. I remember my last dance with my Daddy, the DJ messing up the date when he announced us for the first time as husband and wife, throwing my bouquet and seeing family and friends I hadn’t seen in years.

Our first year in a new city for me was daunting, with a lot of homesickness and missing my mom and dad, getting used to a new life, new faces, feeling lost in a town I didn’t know, and having the love of my life right next to me every night instead of being thousands of miles away. That was the best part. Since our wedding, we haven’t spent more than a week apart at a time.

Now, I know this all sounds so idyllic and fairy tale-ish, but the harsh reality of life is, life happens. Our first two years were the only normal we have had in our entire marriage. We’ve been tested more than most couples married twice as long, and with every ounce of resolve and commitment we could muster. We started our third year with a serious health crisis, and then a car accident later that year left me with permanent pain and disability. And since I’ve known him, he’d been nursing an old military injury that he had surgery for in 2012. It has always been something, but no matter the severity we have stuck together by choice and with much hard work. I joke when I say I have earned every grey hair on my head, but in many ways I mean it.

Such devotion is not seen as commonplace in today’s “if it feels good, do it” society. Many have gone out of their way to congratulate us on a feat that is unfortunately unusual. Many of my friends from school have divorced, some are on their second or third marriage, and I don’t have any condemnation for them. I don’t know their issues or their relationships. In an age where most things, even relationships, are disposable, it feels good to have come from a place of trial and struggle and say, “Yes, we made it!”

On my way home from my Mom’s yesterday I heard a song I haven’t listened to in years. So many of the words rang true in our relationship that I feel compelled to write them down here and include them. The song is sung by Lee Greenwood, called “I Still Believe:”

Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not
Sometimes I can’t think of one thing we’ve got
In common to keep us from falling apart
To keep holding on with hope in our hearts 

Sometimes it’s heaven and sometimes it’s hell
Sometimes it seems we would be just as well
Off on our own or with somebody else
Then I think about all we’ve been through 


There have been so many nights that you saved me
There have been so many mornings you gave me
The courage to get up and get out of bed
To face the world one more day 

There have been so many trials we’ve conquered together
And so many miles of rough roads we’ve weathered
And I swear forever that I’ll never leave
Cause baby, I still believe 


You bring out my best, you can bring out my worst
You feed every hunger, then leave me burning with thirst
And at the moment that I know that I’ll surely die
Your love is my fountain of life


There have been so many nights that you saved me
There have been so many mornings you gave me
The courage to get up and get out of bed
To face the world one more day 


There have been so many trials we’ve conquered together
And so many miles of rough roads we’ve weathered
And I swear forever that I’ll never leave
Cause baby, I still believe

Happy Anniversary, my love. Here’s to another twenty, for better or for worse, in sickness or (hopefully) health. Forever.

Remembering My Dad

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my dad’s passing. I’ve been told that the loss of one’s parents is probably one of the most devastating losses a person can suffer, with the exception of the loss of a spouse and/or a child. I believe this to be a true statement. Being a surviving child of a deceased parent, I have found that you never really get over this heart wrenching but all too inevitable loss. No, getting over it isn’t (or at least hasn’t been) an option for me. There is grief of course, maybe moving past it and even being somewhat accepting of it. But when a woman loses her Daddy, don’t expect her to ever just “get over it.” It just won’t happen.

Shortly before his passing, because we knew it was coming (and knowing does NOT make it easier. At. All.) I had started to write what I thought would be a fitting tribute to the man who was my father. In the end, my thoughtful obituary, written in grief, was not what I wanted to convey about this wonderful man. Yes, it was descriptive, and very expensive to publish in the paper, but I don’t think I did him any justice. I could write a whole post about companies that take advantage of folks in their time of sorrow and pain, because I think they are disgusting (local newspaper, I’m looking at YOU!!,) but I will save that for another time. This column is about my dad.

Thanks to a free week with Ancestry, I have found out some pretty amazing things about my dad and his family. I discovered that my dad’s father came to America from Italy with his family as a little boy, a family that consisted of only a father and his five children. I have not dug deep enough to discover what happened to my great grandmother, and why her name did not show up on the Ellis Island documents. But this discovery means that my dad was the first generation in his family to be born on American soil. This was a fantastic find! If only I could trace far enough back to find out more, but this was a start!

My dad, John, was the second born of nine children, and the oldest boy. I remember him telling me that his own parents were up before the break of dawn each morning baking bread to feed and care for their family. My dad was nine years old when the Great Depression started, which made it harder to feed a growing family. But when he reached the end of his eight grade in school, Dad left school to work and help feed the family. As the firstborn son, it was expected of him to do this, and he did it without complaint.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, my dad enlisted into the army at the age of 21. He spoke of his time in the war proudly, because he believed in the cause of freedom and that his sacrifices contributed to the eventual victory of the allies. His European Theater of Operations saw him in places like Normandy during the D-Day invasion, in Belgium and Luxembourg for the Battle of the Bulge, into Bastogne and even liberating the Ohrdruf concentration camp (part of the Buchenwald camp) in Germany. He served in the 4th Armored under Gen. George S. Patton, and he was so very proud of that. He was awarded the Purple Heart for sustaining an injury when the half-track he was driving with hit with enemy fire. The soldier sitting right behind him was not as lucky as my dad. He lost many friends over the duration of his service. When he would tell me of those stories, his eyes would become glassy with tears, and I’d see him secretly wipe them away.

After the service, he went back to helping to feed and shelter his family working in the private sector. He had no real formal education, so learning a skilled trade was really his only choice in a post-war America. His parents met my mom at a local bingo, run by her uncle and his organization, in our home town. She was working there with her family, and surprisingly she had known her future in-laws for some time before she met Dad. When they met each other while roller skating, he fell in love with her instantly. He returned home to tell his parents about meeting her, and when he described her they told him, “That sounds like our Janie from bingo.” And sure enough, it was! They were eventually married in the summer of 1948, on my Dad’s 28th birthday.

Over the next twenty years, they welcomed four children into the family. First was a girl, Diane, then John (nicknamed Jack,) then Jeffrey and then yours truly. Between the older and younger girl was eighteen years difference. Dad and Mom bought a home for the low, low price of $14,000 with a 30 year mortgage in 1955 or 1956, shortly after the birth of my oldest brother. Dad worked long, hard days in Connecticut’s harsh climate as a welder, a trade he learned while working for C.W. Blakeslee Construction. As far back as I can remember, Dad was laid off for the most of the winter, starting at the beginning to middle of December. While we were all still young and school work could be given in advance, back when teachers and principals didn’t mind if parents took their kids from school for 2 weeks before Christmas break, Dad and Mom took us to Florida for the holiday. We stayed with my Mom’s aunt, Irene, and her husband Ray. They owned a bungalow in Oakland Park, which is a small suburb outside of Fort Lauderdale. It was only a two bedroom, one bathroom house, and it was quite a cozy fit for a family of five plus two resident adults. And after my sister joined the Air Force, and my uncle Ray had passed away (I was a baby when both those things occurred) it was still very cozy, so much so that the boys stayed next door with my aunt’s friend.

I have some fond memories of Christmases in Florida, and some things I only remember in photos. For example, our family was the first on our block to visit Disney World. We have an old Polaroid photo with Dad, me and Mickey Mouse, date stamped December, 1971. I was only two that year, so I don’t remember that but I do remember being in the Bicentennial parade during the 1976 celebration. Jeff and I were picked to be in the parade from the crowd, and we were both given a commemorative medal and a copy of the Declaration of Independence. I wish I had both of those now. Our Christmases were sometime spent at the beach after presents were opened. I remember Dad washing “tar balls” that I had stepped in at the beach off my feet, and helping me to pick oranges from the backyard trees. And my Aunt Irene had some of the biggest orange trees in her backyard I had ever seen, even to this day. That was where I first heard the term “tangelo,” way back before Honeybells were known. We would pack the car’s floorboards with our clothes and stuff as many oranges as we could jam into our suitcases for the car trip back home in January.

Dad retired from his job in 1985 at the age of 65 years old, and it couldn’t come fast enough. Too many years of working in the heat and the cold of New England summers and winters had taken their toll on him. He had nerve damage in his ears from the loud machinery, before they realized that those noises could damage hearing. I don’t remember a time when he didn’t have a sore, achy back and only found relief at the chiropractor, who was his most trusted doctor. I had seen Dad barely able to walk into the office, and walk out standing straight and nearly pain free. That’s a good doctor in my book. After Dad retired, I was still only in high school, so he and Mom did a lot of volunteering for the marching band, of which I was a member. They helped to run the concession stand at the football stadium, and followed us around to every away game, just to watch me play in the band. Over the years, they developed some dear friendships and a ton of great memories. On the last regular game of the season, Thanksgiving morning, the band parents cooked up a hot, fresh meal for the band members as a way of saying goodbye to the outgoing senior class. When it was my turn to say goodbye to the band experience, it was a sad day for all three of us. Sometimes, I think my parents enjoyed the band days more than I did.

Those band years also took us to Florida and California for the end of the year “band tour.” Anyone who wanted to go on the band trip at the end of the year could go, and there were always fundraisers to help students offset the cost of the trip. Mom and Dad came with me on my sophomore trip to California, the first time they’d ever been, and to Florida on my senior trip. Most of my friends would have been horrified (and the ones who had been chaperoned usually were) by their parents tagging along on the trips. I would never have wanted to deny such an opportunity to them, especially since I knew how much they both loved the band atmosphere. Most of their friends also went, and the parents had their own itinerary of things to do separate of what we kids were doing. But I knew I could count on them to be watching the parade on July 4th, cheering me on as we marched in Florida’s blistering summer heat. Whether it was the scorching Florida sun or the bitter cold New England winter football games, they never missed a performance. Not one time.

After graduation, my folks decided it was time to start wintering in Florida. We call this phenomenon, “Snowbirds,” here in the sunny south. At first, they came down for a few weeks, then a month, and then for most of the winter. My mom’s brother would have annual tickets to the Daytona 500 in February, and it was my Dad’s favorite part of snow-birding. But finally, after a brutally cold winter they decided to sell the house and move to warmer climes. The house was on the market for a few months when an offer came in. The new couple loved the home and really wanted it. Considering that winter was coming again rapidly, and the housing market was turning sour, they took the offer and became Florida residents. I was the only one left without a spouse and nowhere to call home, so I came here with them.

Mom Dad Epcot Christmas

Mom & Dad, Epcot 1991

I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention my high school best friend, who not only turned out to be my best friend for life, but a third brother to me, and a third son to them. Patrick, known only to my dad as “Padderick,” was a very important part of all our lives after we relocated to Florida. He is a talented artist and wanted to refine and hone his skill at probably the most prestigious art school, Ringling School of Art and Design. During Patrick’s four years at Ringling, he visited often on weekends when he had nothing pressing at school. Dad always looked forward to his visits. My dad, an avid thimble collector, always loved to share his collection and his passion for it with Patrick when he visited. We were all right there when Patrick graduated Ringling, celebrating with him. Dad was proud of his third son, as he was the only one to graduate from a four year college. When Patrick moved away after graduation, I know Dad missed him. He missed sharing stories. He missed his company and love. Recently, my mom and I decided to gift a portion of Dad’s thimble collection to Patrick. I know Dad would have approved.

Though we didn’t have pets growing up, I had acquired a cat after a roommate arrangement went sour.  She was in the backyard crying, a tiny calico kitten. I have a soft place in my heart for calicos and tortoiseshell cats, so I rescued her.  When I moved back home, Callie came with me, but as a condition of her being allowed in the house, she had to stay in my bedroom while I was working.  My dad, who had previously not been a fan of felines, couldn’t stand to see my kitten cooped up in my bedroom all day.  Usually when I came home at lunch, she was in the living room waiting for me.  Dad and Callie were fast friends, and when she wasn’t sleeping she was by his side, waiting for him to sneak a piece of meat under the table.

Dad and Callie

Best friends forever!

Eventually I met and married my soulmate, who happened to live on the other side of the country. This meant leaving Florida and joining my new mate in Oregon. The wedding was small but meaningful. We had all of the trimmings that most weddings have: the cake, throwing the bouquet, my first dance with my new hubby and my last dance with my daddy. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that I’d probably never dance with him again. After the ceremony the family went back to Mom and Dad’s house. But after that day, I was not just his little girl anymore. Life had changed. The Monday following the wedding, hubby and I started our cross country trek back to a home I’d only visited twice, with a man I’d only seen three times before the wedding. Dad wasn’t there when we left the house. I wasn’t sure I could have left if I saw him cry, but I still regret that he wasn’t home when we left. That was my one big mistake and it haunts me still.

After I left the nest, Mom and Dad continued to travel back and forth to Connecticut. They celebrated their golden anniversary in 1998, surrounded by family, friends and neighbors. Their grandchildren, my sister’s kids, lived in Illinois so that was a popular destination while they were still able. We threw him a huge party for his 80th birthday in 2000. Then in 2003, my mom told me that Dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I was in college at the time studying to get an Associates Degree in accounting, but I wanted to come back to Florida, to spend time with Dad and help Mom, because I knew she would need it. So in the summer of 2004, hubby and I packed what we could bring with us, sold what we couldn’t and toted three unwilling cats across the country again.

Dads 80th birthday

Dad’s 80th birthday… the aftermath!

The next few years were precious but difficult. Day after day, we watched the leader of our family deteriorate. All of his years of hard work, and this was his fate. It was so unfair, so very undeserved, and so very hard to experience. In truth, my Dad was gone long before he passed, as the disease plundered his memory and personality. I hope with all that is in me that I never have to go through an ordeal like that with another loved one. But, we kept him home as long as we could, in comfortable, familiar surroundings. His war stories became more fantastical, going from reality to a Dad version of Rambo, jumping from his half-track and mowing those Nazis down singlehandedly. Even now, we still laugh about those stories. Evenings were rough for Mom, when she was alone with him and sundown syndrome had struck. Luckily, he was not able to walk well and we never had to worry about him wandering from home or getting lost. We joked about putting a necklace on him with his address when we first moved to Florida, never expecting that someday that would be a reality for us.

Around the time when we could see Dad was starting to lose interest in daily activities and things he normally enjoyed, we called my brother Jeff, who had a new infant daughter, to bring the girls down to see him. Though we had pictures of his youngest granddaughters, he hadn’t seen the baby and constantly talked about wanting to see her. So Jeff made a trip down with his family to see Dad. It was the last time I remember seeing him joyful and content. Jeff didn’t know that it would be the last time he would see Dad.

Shortly after Jeff and his family left for home, Dad stopped wanting to eat. He was getting weaker by the day, and Mom took him to his doctor, who in turn admitted him into the hospital for observation. A week later he was released, fully hydrated and nourished, and admitted to a rehab facility, with the objective of getting him strong enough to go home. It was during these four weeks at the rehab facility that he started to fail and decline rapidly. Eventually, Hospice was called to care for him. During that time, he didn’t know anyone, nor did he even have any self-awareness. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever witnessed, and I pray to God above I never have to again.

On the day he died, I planned on going from work to see him on my lunch break, but I couldn’t get away. It was March 15, 2007, the ‘Ides of March.’ Mom went to see him, and asked me what she should read to him, because she liked to talk to him and read to him, even though he was not conscious. I suggested that she read the twenty-third Psalm from his Bible. When she called me after work, she told me that she had done so, and was happy she did. Later that evening, Mom got the phone call from the rehab center letting her know that he was gone. In that moment, our lives changed forever.

Dad was an incredible husband, father and friend. His family came first, no matter the cost. His hard work and sacrifices throughout his whole life made our lives better, and I don’t think he would have traded any part of his life for something better. He had everything he wanted and needed with his family. We were more than enough for him. I wish the world had more people in it like my daddy, for it was a better place while he was in it.

It’s Time To Get Real!

I’ve been immersing myself in documentaries since I began this juicing journey. The first one, maybe not so obviously, was “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ll sum it up quickly. This flick documents the juicing journey of one Joe Cross, an Aussie who came to America to embark on a 60 day fast, which he called a “reboot.” He suffered from a chronic, autoimmune disorder called Urticaria, which from what I understand is chronic hives with itching and pain. Sounds awful. Over the course of his 60 day reboot and over 3500 miles of driving across the USA he lost over 70 pounds and got himself off all medications that he took to manage his urticaria. Amazing, isn’t it?

It was this call to action that drew me in. Come regain your health!  Come lose extra weight!  I have vested interest in both. I am quite overweight, and together with the Fibromyalgia I admit I was sucked in. This isn’t a bad thing. We bought a juicer after Christmas and we started this journey on February 1st. We’ve both been moderately successful so far, but the fasting is only the beginning of a lifestyle change.

Back to my original point. It’s time to get real. I have been watching, on the advice of others who have been similarly impassioned by other food-related documentaries, these movies about “Big Food,” and government conspiracies to keep the populace sick and fat. While I have a deep distrust of government, laying the blame for an overweight and obese society solely on the shoulders of government is a bit disingenuous.

At some point, the individual has to take responsibility for what goes into his or her mouth.

At no point in my life did a government official point a loaded pistol to my head and make me eat unhealthy food. It may be true that lobbyists are very powerful in government… probably more powerful than they should be. But I am more than capable of reading a “Nutrition Facts” label, and scanning the ingredients for nefarious items on said list.

One documentary in particular goes as far as to say, “It’s not your fault that you’re obese.” Really? …..Really??  Food companies make it difficult sometimes to ascertain what is actually in their products, but to lay the blame on a whole industry?  Where is personal accountability in this whole equation?

I’ve been told my whole life I’m lazy. Maybe to some extent that may be true. I’m not exactly what I’d call motivated, and sometimes I’d rather just sit and surf the Internet for an hour than do housework. But no one has really come out and told me that my weight has been the result of my own poor food choices. Not even my doctor (though, oddly enough my eye doctor suggested that I look into weight loss surgery. I wanted to ask his qualifications for making that assessment, but I held back) has come close to saying, “You’re fat. Stop eating fattening foods!” Everyone pussyfoots around this problem.

It’s time to get real.

If your doctor won’t say it, and society at large will not say it, then I will. You are fat because you make poor food choices!  I know this is a very non-PC thing to say, but someone has to be the beacon of truth.  The good news, and there is good news, is that if it’s your fault you are obese, then you have the power to change it!  In fact, you are the only one who can change this. That isn’t to say this is an easy thing to accomplish.  In fact, the diet food industry makes sure that your weight loss journey isn’t easy.  If they made it terribly easy, then they’d lose all those billions of dollars every year.  But this is where personal accountability really kicks in.  Because it is your responsibility to make sure you understand food labels and how to read them!

You can bet that if a food product says, “low fat,” that is code for “we added a crap ton of sugar to make up for the lower fat content.”  As a rule, full fat products contain less added sugar and chemicals than their lower fat counterparts.  This is especially true when it comes to dairy products, like sour cream and yogurt.  A quick glance at the ingredients label will show this to be true.  And besides, your body needs dietary fats.  And not all fats are made the same.  Avocado and olives are both considered to be fatty fruits.  However, olive oil is one of the healthiest oils available, and avocados have monounsaturated fats, which are heart healthy compared to saturated fats from red meats and other animal products.  In addition, cholesterol comes solely from animal proteins.  If you consume a vegetarian/ vegan diet, you will not be consuming dietary cholesterol!

A healthy diet should steer clear away from foods that are heavily processed.  Look for foods as close to their natural state as possible, with nothing added or taken away. Have you ever seen Hot Pockets growing on trees?  When was the last time you saw a hot dog walking around a pasture?  You haven’t.  Foods like that are so laden with chemicals that if you truly read what was in it and understood the ramifications of putting stuff like that into your body, you’d never eat it again.  Choose grass fed, free range beef and vegetarian-fed, cage free poultry and eggs, and wild caught fish (or better yet, stay away from animal proteins altogether.)

I make no apologies for the statements I’ve made in this article, because they are truth, as disturbing as it may be for some to hear.  This has been a realization for me in the past three months, too, since watching “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” for the first time.  Because I have been told repeatedly that my weight and health isn’t my fault, and there isn’t much I can do to change my weight because I can’t exercise how I need to for a drastic weight change (by the way, the “calories in/calories burned” equation is another lie.  It is nearly impossible for an average, busy person to burn off more calories than they take in per day!  Think about it.) This is my fault.  But this is good, because it means I have the power to change.

I hope you think about what I’ve written here today, and take it to heart.  I know since giving up the standard American diet of junk and processed foods and changing to whole, clean foods I feel better.  My head is clearer, I sleep better, I have much more energy and less pain.  All I did was juice for 23 days, and continue a vegetarian diet afterwards.  You can do it, too.  I have faith in you!  But you need to take the first steps towards change, and commit to it.  For your loved ones. For your health!  For you.

It’s time to get real.