“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
A.A. Milne

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


My mother's battle with cancer and Alzheimer's was won today.  Death where is thy sting?  She is with her Christ.

She and my father were married 55 years on December 14.  Below is a tribute to their life together. My father is understandably heartbroken. He has remained strong throughout this ordeal and never left her side--just like the song said.   Merry Christmas , Mother.  When we meet again...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Greetings Earthlings!!

Sorry everyone!! We are still here and yes you still have to do the laundry!


(And before I get emails and texts--It's a joke!!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Geri's!!!!

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 We had lunch again today, the Geri's and I.  We stayed in at my house eating corn chowder, salad, artichoke dip and lots of sweets.  The food is always good when we get together but the talk is even better!!! In the words of Ninny Threadgoode from  Fried Green Tomatoes ,"I found out what the secret to life is: friends. Best friends".

So Merry Christmas from the Geri's!!!! (and below is a great recipe for easy, easy , easy corn chowder)


2 cans cream of potato soup
2 cans cream of corn
2 cups milk
bacon bits (I use the ones you find by the salad fixings
1/2 bag of frozen potatoes o'brien
sprinkle of parsley flakes (for color)
 shredded cheese
sour cream

Mix all the ingredients except the cheese and sour cream in a crock pot.  Cook for 2 1/2 hours on low.  Serve with cheese and sour cream and extra bacon bits.  Also serve with fresh bread or corn bread.  You are then good to go!!

Merry Christmas to all, Friends!!!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Let's talk about Autism . It is NOT a Mental Illness. A must read for everyone!!

By now, everyone who has a television, radio, computer, or mouth knows about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  There is no argument about the senseless killings of small children and their teachers.  What there is an argument about is of course the same one that has been circulating and dividing for years:  Gun control.

I don't want to talk about gun control.  We all have opinions about it--for or against.  However, the conversation that should be taking place is that of mental illness and mental health services--not only for the person suffering from the disease but from the family members who often suffer in silence. 

When my son, Caleb, was first diagnosed with Autism, most of the books out there dealing with the disorder still referred to autism as childhood schizophenia.  Basically, a child with autism was considered mentally ill and the mother was to blame.  It was because she was cold and indifferent. (sarcasm here).

The following is taken from Web MD and a brief history on the "origins" of Autism.

"Where Did the Term "Autism" Come From?

The word "autism," which has been in use for about 100 years, comes from the Greek word "autos," meaning "self." The term describes conditions in which a person is removed from social interaction -- hence, an isolated self.
Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist, was the first person to use the term. He started using it around 1911 to refer to one group of symptoms of schizophrenia.
In the 1940s, researchers in the United States began to use the term "autism" to describe children with emotional or social problems. Leo Kanner, a doctor from Johns Hopkins University, used it to describe the withdrawn behavior of several children he studied. At about the same time, Hans Asperger, a scientist in Germany, identified a similar condition that’s now called Asperger’s syndrome.
Autism and schizophrenia remained linked in many researchers’ minds until the 1960s. It was only then that medical professionals began to have a separate understanding of autism in children.
From the 1960s through the 1970s, research into treatments for autism focused on medications such as LSD, electric shock, and behavioral change techniques. The latter relied on pain and punishment.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the role of behavioral therapy and the use of highly controlled learning environments emerged as the primary treatments for many forms of autism and related conditions. Currently, the cornerstone of autism therapy is behavioral therapy. Other treatments are added as needed.

What Are the Symptoms of Autism?

One symptom common to all types of autism is an inability to easily communicate and interact with others. In fact, some people with autism are unable to communicate at all. Others may have difficulty interpreting body language or holding a conversation.
Other symptoms linked to autism may include unusual behaviors in any of these areas:
  • Interest in objects or specialized information
  • Reactions to sensations
These symptoms are usually seen early in development. Most children with severe autism are diagnosed by age 3. Some children with milder forms of autism, such as Asperger's syndrome, may not be diagnosed until later, when their problems with social interaction cause difficulties at school."

Ok, so that's a brief synopsis of autism.  But that little blurp or the other blurps you read about the disorder are not going to tell you about living with the disorder each and every day. They are not going to tell you the hell that most families experience not once, not twice , but on a daily basis for months and often years on end.  As I continue Caleb's story in subsequent blogs, I'll relate some of the hell we went through.  But for today I want to focus on the obsessiveness of the disorder.

First of all, before I go on, I want everyone to understand, autism is NOT mental illness.  It is a disorder.  It is not schizophrenia.  It is a neurological disorder that no one has found a cure for (regardless of what some say).

Second, the one thing you can count on with autism is that you cannot count on autism and it's symptoms and behaviors being the same in every person that has the disorder.  One may be verbal; another may not be.  One may be highly intelligent, and another may have mental retardation.  One may be basically happy while another may be basically despondent and sad.  EVERY SINGLE PERSON WITH AUTISM HAS DIFFERENT SYMPTOMS AND DIFFERENT REACTIONS.  Therefore, it is difficult to treat autism.

Third, one thing you CAN count on with autism is that ritualistic behaviors and obsessions are unilaterally present.  Over my son's 23 years I have not met one person with autism who did not have certain obsessive behaviors and rituals that were performed and perseverated upon.  

We are fortunate.  Our son is obsessed with all things Disney.  In particular, he is obsessed with Winnie the Pooh.  Winnie the Pooh is gentle and kind and not violent--ever.  Some people with autism are obsessed with purses, or trains, church, or whatever.  However, some are obsessed with superheroes, and yes some are obsessed with video games--violent video games.  And this can be a problem.

You must understand Autism to understand why this is important.  As described above, persons with autism are interested in objects.  Well, it goes further than that.  They tend to TREAT people like objects.  They completely lack empathy.  They aren't being rude or insensitive.  It is just not in their nature to have empathy for people--at all--ever.

Now challenge their obsession; take it away; destroy it; then you might get some emotion.  But for people-no.  Here's an example:

Several years ago, our dog, Sunny, was killed in a car accident.  Caleb loved that dog.  That dog slept on his bed.  But when Sunny was killed, Caleb laughed and hooted about it for days.  We would tell him it was sad and for a time he would put on a frown but then he would go back to laughing about Sunny's death.  And to this day, three years later, Caleb will still laugh about how Sunny's head was squished by a car.When my father in law died, Caleb laughed about that. When he visited my mother in the nursing home and saw her crying in pain (she is dying from cancer), he laughed.  It's inappropriate--yes--to us.  But to him who lacks empathy and understanding of empathy, it is perfectly normal.

Caleb does cry.  If you take away his dvd's or his toys or restrict him from the television, he will have big old tears pouring down his face.  Challenge his "world" and he is terribly unhappy. Those who know Caleb love him.  Most people would describe Caleb as gentle and kind.  And he is.  But he is still autistic and he will never act in a way we think he should.  People are objects --plain and simple.

For better understanding of autism, read Temple Grandin's book "Thinking in Pictures: My life with Autism".  She is a person who has autism and can artfully explain it. 

Now why did I just write about all of this?  Because the media is reporting that Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, suffered from Asperger's.  If that is true, then he would have seen people as objects.  I don't know (and we may never know) what caused him to pick up a gun and decide to kill 20 children and 6 adults that day but I do know if he was a player of video games, if he was obsessed with them, the games would have been real to him.  It is conceivable on every level of autism that he would carry out what he was watching on his games-because the people would only be objects to him and the games would be real.  This does not mean that all people with autism are going to pick up a gun and harm others.  I am not saying that at all and I do not want anyone out there to be afraid of people with Autism.  That would be stupid and a step back for our society.  I am merely trying to offer an explanation from an autistic point of view.

It will be interesting to see in days to come, if Adam Lanza's mother had reached out for help and was turned away.  Services for children and adults with autism are STILL spotty at best.  Unlike other disabilities, adults with autism have difficulty interacting with others, maintaining employment, and developing any meaningful friendships.  Many agencies are less than thrilled to offer services to adults with autism--especially those who display violent tendencies.

My husband and I are fortunate.  Even though we live in a small town, services over the years have been good.  Caleb has had wonderful, caring teachers through the years who made sure that he was integrated well with peers his own age.  We are also fortunate that for the most part, Caleb is happy and easy going.  He does still have rituals and behaviors that he must perform (like wearing pink on Sunday's--he has six of the same pink shirts) but most of his behaviors are harmless and only annoying to us, his family.  Other families are not so fortunate.  Many children with autism become unhappy adults with autism.  Hormones tend to play havoc with their moods and behaviors.  Their families often find them difficult to deal with and also find no where and no one to help them. 

Although the natural tendency is for society to judge Adam Lanza and his mother harshly and call them monsters, please be careful in your judgements.  What happened was wrong and a tragedy.  However, you do not know the hell that either Adam or his mother were suffering from.  You do not know if they reached out for help only to be turned away again. Remember, they too lost their lives and only by the Grace of God go we.

Disclaimer:  I WILL delete any and all posts that are rude, ignorant, or basically not helpful so please before you comment on this blog, think about that.  This blog was intended to uplift not harm.  Thanks!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Primitive Gingerbread Ornament or doll -- A PATTERN AND A HOW TO!!!

I love primitives.  I love gingerbread men.  So I decided to share a pattern and a tutorial with you. 

The following takes only slight sewing skill.  If you can hand sew a straight stitch or do a basic stitch on a sewing machine , you can make this craft.

What you'll need:

scrap of fabric(s)--I used scraps of cotton fabric in brown tones but you can use whatever color you wish
jute string
sewing machine and/or sewing needle and thread
small amount of polyfill stuffing
safety pins--rusty (find these at a craft store)
instant coffee and brush
ground cinnamon

1.  Copy the pattern below.  (I don't have it in a pdf file but you can copy and paste it to a Word file and then print.  Or freehand it).If the size is too big for you cut it down.  Make your ornament as big or little as you like. Cut out and trace onto fabric which has been folded in half with the right sides facing each other.  Trace using a thin sharpie on the wrong side of the fabric.

2.  Next, sew on tracing lines all the way around leaving NO openings.  Cut out around gingerbread man about 1/4 of an inch. Cut a slit in the back of the gingerbread man (doesn't really matter what side) in the middle of the man.  DO NOT CUT THROUGH BOTH FABRICS--ONLY ONE SIDE!  Then turn inside out.

3.  Stuff gingerbread man lightly with the polyfill.  Sew up the back by hand with a whip stitch.  (If you don't know what that is, look it up on google)!

4.  Tie a piece of jute string around the neck and knot.  Add 3 rusty safety pins .  On the back make a "hanger" using thread.

5.  Next put a small amount of instant coffee in a cup (a couple of teaspoons), mix with about a 1/4 cup hot water, and brush on gingerbread men so they are really dark.  Then sprinkle with ground cinnamon. 

6.  Air dry or bake in the oven on a cookie sheet at 150 degrees F for about and hour.  Your ornie or doll should be really stiff.  And you're done!!  Enjoy!!Wasn't that easy????

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup in the Crock Pot--It's what's for dinner!!

I don't like to cook.  I do it out of necessity.  I'm no gourmet and I rarely try new and fancy recipes.  Therefore, I like fast and easy.  Years ago, my crock pot became my best friend, so much so that I have three!!  You can make all aspects of your meal in the crock pot. 

I also love soup.  And Chicken Noodle Soup is one of the family's favorites.  So here's my recipe (which isn't much of a recipe).  It's fast and easy.  Don't think too much when you make this. 

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

1 crock pot
4 or 5 or 6 cups of water
4 or 5 halves of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 or 2 cups of chopped celery
3 or 4 carrots cut up
1 onion cut up
salt and pepper to taste
Grandma's Egg noodles-Homemade

Put the water in first and throw everything else in EXCEPT the egg noodles.  I throw the chicken breasts in frozen and cut them up a few hours later when they have started to cook.  Add the egg noodles about 3 hours before you serve  the soup otherwise they will get too rubbery. The egg noodles (the bag) are pictured below and found in the frozen aisle of your store.  I love these because they taste and look homemade but I didn't have to make them.  Cook the soup about 8 hours on low, 6 on high.  Serve with crackers, homemade bread, and maybe a glass of milk!!  Easy peasy.  Enjoy!

Chicken noodle soup may be good for the soul but it's also good for the lazy cook!

Homemade Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Driving the Geri's...--The Geriatric Club Strikes Again!!!

 "Hoke"?  "Yes, Miss Daisy".  You're my best friend".--Driving Miss Daisy

“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
Even longer,' Pooh answered.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 There are lots of movies about friends and friendships. Over the years, you form all different kinds of friendships.  Some are lasting and some are only for a time.

In my "later years" I have been blessed to have been given a group of girlfriends like no other I've had in the rest of my life.  In the 10 plus years we have been together, we have been through overwhelming life obstacles and  enumerable joys. Over the years we have ebbed and flowed in our friendships like the tide at sea.  Sometimes we were closer to shore than others. For a time we all grew apart and became busy with our lives seeing each other only at the grocery store or once a year at Christmas.

And then last year, a tragedy struck.  Our dearest, Rosan, was diagnosed with colon cancer.  I won't ever forget the day she told me.  We hadn't seen each other in months when out of the blue she called and wanted to do lunch.  I was elated and overjoyed to see her.  Until she dropped the bomb.

Rosan is a strong woman. One of the strongest I have ever known.  And she has had her share of health issues.  But I sure wasn't expecting that!  She was only 51 years old.  It was at that moment, I decided; she decided; the "group" was getting back together.  I hadn't seen Carla or Debbie, the other two in our group, for well over a year.  However, at that moment, we all came together, and began bi-monthly meetings for lunch.

We decided it was time to stop the busyness of life and to remember what is really important in life.

Not long after at a monthly card game some of the girls still attended, one of the other attendees commented on the four of us being together again.  I laughed and explained how we all were older now and faced with health issues and/or other health related issues of family members.  I said how we how unofficially named ourselves The Geriatric Club.  (Now mind you, the other women in my group don't like this name but me in my warped sense of humor think it's hilarious).  Then she said we could be like Miss Daisy only it would be
driving the Geri's"!  I love that.  And for me it stuck.

That's not all that has stuck.  We have.  This past year, my bestie, Rosan, survived colon cancer and now has a clean bill of health.  My other bestie Carla is still struggling with auto-immune diseases but she is a fighter and I know she's going to be okay.  (She wasn't always a fighter but she is learning!)  My third bestie, Deb, was diagnosed with severe Diabetes and is lucky to be here. Her daughter has also had severe health challenges but Deb is also a strong, strong woman and continues to persevere.  Me- well you read about my mom (and if you didn't, read some older posts).

For those of you who are younger women and think once your children are grown, you will be home free--WRONG!  The challenges change but they are still there.

What I do know is you need to remember to keep a close group of women with whom you can share and cry and laugh.  I will NEVER let these wonderful women go again.  We make a point of getting together now on a regular basis no matter how crazy life gets.  We have learned--life is precious and can also be gone in a second.

I had lunch today with the Geri's.  I forgot to take pictures or I would have posted them here.  We laughed, swapped stories and ornaments.  But since we are all over 50 , we also forgot to take pictures. Below is a pic of my Rosan and me about 5 or 6 years ago at a cookie exchange we hosted.

Friends--they are what's for lunch!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Dry Apples and Oranges for Inexpensive Christmas Decorations

Oh what to do with all those apples and oranges you find on sell and buy this time of year.  If your family is like mine, I sometimes have so many, they all don't get eaten! Whether yours eat them up as fast as you can buy them or not, drying apples and oranges for Christmas/Winter decorations is cheap and easy!!  (My two favorite subjects)!

I've been drying both for years.  You can add the dried slices to potpourri, flower arrangements, Christmas present toppers (tied on), string in a garland, hang as ornaments , or just sitting in a bowl or mason jar as a decoration.

Below is a tutorial followed by pictures of the finished product!!


Pizza pan with holes OR cookie sheet
parchment paper
1 medium sized apple --6 slices
1 medium size navel orange--6 slices
lemon juice
ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg  (optional)
Raffia in any color you like (I like the natural)

1.  Line the pizza or cookie sheet with parchment paper (so the slices won't stick).  My pizza pan is well worn!  I like the pizza pan because it has holes on the bottom and aids in the drying time.

2. Slice the apple and the orange as thin as you are able making sure it is a whole slice,  Arrange on the pan.

3.  Brush or dab lemon juice on the apple slices to aid in keeping their "white" appearance" as they dry.

4.  Sprinkle lightly the tops of the slices with ground cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg.  This is optional.  One of my bff's does NOT like the smell of any of those spices so this step would be cut out for her!!

5..  Now there are two ways to dry these:  Air dry, which will take several days OR using your oven which takes about 6 hours set at 150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.   The air drying is cheaper of course. Turn after one day.  Oven drying, turn over after a few hours and sprinkle with spices again.

When you are finished drying, using raffia or jute string, string through the natural holes that the fruit makes and knot. 

You can also add the dried oranges and apples to potpourri, dried arrangements, or whatever you wish.  Simple, cheap, easy.  And they smell divine!! 

(The pinecones are from my own yard which makes this arrangement even cheaper!!!  Feliz Navidad!