Lunch at The Pink House

The Pink House

Today I had an extraordinary luncheon date with my "Mom" and "sister." 

This story began forty years ago when my siblings and I went to visit our uncle and his family during the school winter break the last week of December.  While we were gone, my folks moved into another school district.  Just in time for my last semester of high school.

I went to live with my friend Donna, whose family "adopted" me.  Nothing legal.  Just took me into their hearts and home like I was born among them.  None of us ever recovered from that experience.  And I will be eternally grateful. 

My folks had recently divorced.  It got ugly.  So my biological family was pretty dysfunctional at the time.  My friend’s family gave me the stability I needed to get me through my last semester, graduate, and enter the work world.  They had high expectations for me and gave me encouragement to make my own.  They celebrated even my smallest achievement and taught me how to live in a functional family.

Make no mistake, they had their own form of craziness.  But theirs was not born from, or dependent upon, chaotic power struggles.  Their craziness was never at another’s expense.  It was born in humor and the occasional chain of events that resembled a screw-ball comedy. 

It wasn’t all fun.  I had to do my share of the chores, and I deserved, and got, the occasional lecture.  At seventeen, I still had a lot to learn.  My first family, busy with their own problems, had abandoned me to my new family, who had no legal authority or claim on me.  It put them in a difficult position when I needed discipline.  I wasn’t a bad kid.  But like all teens–especially those raised in a dysfunctional family–I made mistakes, bad choices, and had lapses in judgment.  I hope that after forty years they have forgotten at least the worst of those.  Thankfully, it is never mentioned.  If not forgotten, I know that those things were forgiven.  They did that quickly.

My new family saw me through my stupidity, heartbreak, and illness.  Whatever I needed, they provided without hesitation or reluctance–without financial compensation from my first parents.  They had made a commitment to me.  They simply took me for one of their own and never looked back. 
Donna, her sister, and brother never showed jealousy of the time and resources their parents gave me.  If they ever resented my being there for so long, they never let me know it.  They treated me no differently than if I’d been part of the family all along.  I was picked on, argued with, subjected to sibling mischief, and defended against outsiders.

Dad was often ornery, sometimes strict, and never mean.  He wasn’t a big talker.  So when he said something, it wasn’t idle.  He was a master of the kind of one-liners that surprised and cracked everyone up.  He was just as quick to laugh as to make others laugh.  I’ve lost track of how many years exactly (but more than two decades) it’s been since Dad died.  I think of him often and will always carry his influence with me. 

Donna died of emphysema March 21, 1997.  We had been with her at the hospital for two days.  We all knew it was time.  I’ll never know if she waited for the 21st to keep from dying on the 20th (my birthday) or if she was waiting for the birth of my oldest son’s first born–a daughter.  Moments after my friend left us, I got the call that my granddaughter had been born in a hospital a few miles away.  Maybe that was just a coincidence of timing.  Maybe those events are directly related.  I don’t know.  But that’s why I remember the exact day Donna left us.

It was Donna’s mom who first knew I would write a novel.  My first parents believed I could.  But Mom knew I would.  It only took me forty years to find my voice and my first novel-length story.  I gave her an autographed copy of the first draft.  She will soon be eighty.  I wasn’t making her wait to see whether it will ever be published.  I hope she lives to see it in hardcover on her bookshelf.

Donna’s brother lives in Texas.  I see him occasionally when he comes to visit Mom.  He still picks on  me. 

Her little sister is still close by, and we still make memories together.  Like today when we took Mom to The Pink House in Claremore.  It’s a wonderful place–open only for lunch and specializing in unique soups, sandwiches, casseroles and quiches.  And let’s not forget the tea–served iced or hot in fifty-four varieties–by the glass, cup, or pot.  It’s a landmark.  A place for gathering and celebrating.  A place to laugh and remember when.  (My face still hurts from the laughter–deep full-body, from the bone out, laughter.)

Wherever the three of us are together it becomes a place to love and be loved.  A place without pretense in the presence of those who know the deep truths of you and love you anyway.  Wherever we are together, we are home.  Today, home was at The Pink House. 
I "borrowed" this picture from The Pink House website.  If you get the chance to visit this unique restaurant, don’t hesitate.  It’s excellent food is very affordable, the service is exceptional, the atmosphere is a perfect combination of homey and elegant–reminiscent of an old-fashioned English tea house.  Wear your jeans or your best dress, both belong in The Pink House.


July 26, 2010 Daily Life

As usual, we were up until 4 am.  Then slept until almost noon.  We woke this morning to Better Half’s cell phone ringing.   There was no way to get to it before the caller was sent to voice mail.  We rolled over and went back to sleep.  A few minutes latter the land line sounded off.  We got up.  Better Half checked his voice mail.  The call had been from his brother who lives about thirty miles away and wanted to meet him at a cafe in Kansas.  Not the state, the little town eight miles east of here.  A brother visit is a good thing.  Always.

But today, it is an especially good thing.  We were late filing to vote absentee, so by the time we got our ballots last Friday we only had three postal days to get them back in.  They can only be submitted by mail—no hand delivery.  Friday and Saturday, we were busy and didn’t have time to finish reviewing candidates.  Late Sunday, we finally got our ballots marked (part of what kept us up so late).  We couldn’t put them in the mailbox because they have to be signed by two witnesses.  Better Half and I witnessed each other’s, but we still needed one more witness each.  So Better Half took them with him and had his brother sign as our other witness.  Since his brother lives in the town where the election board offices are, he will take the ballots to the post office in that town.  They will be delivered tomorrow—just in time to count.  Now that we are registered to vote absentee in the rest of the elections this year, we will get our ballots earlier next time.

Our seven-year-old Grand #7 has spent the past few days with us.  We were left to fend for ourselves as Better Half took off to visit with his brother.   Normally, Better Half does the cooking.  Not always, but usually.  This morning Grand #7 put an apron on and did the cooking.  We had cinnamon oatmeal and a biscuit.  She was full before finishing.  However, being diabetic, I need protein at every meal.  So I cooked some Egg Beaters (egg whites—no yolks—to reduce cholesterol intake).

My sister started a chat by instant messenger in the midst of all this.  It didn’t last long, but was welcomed.  We haven’t had a good chat in a while.

After breakfast Grand #7 wanted to do dishes.  I told her we could use the dishwasher, but she insisted.  After all, she already had an apron on.  So she washed up the few breakfast dishes while standing on a stool and singing a song to herself.  I took the opportunity to check my email, FaceBook, and begin typing this up.


Better Half has returned.  Time for us to sort and fold Grand #7’s clothes that we washed last night and get them packed for her return home.  This was her first time to spend time with us without her parents or siblings.  She had us all to herself and we had a splendid time, part of which was spent learning to make friendship bracelets from embroidery thread.  Well, we didn’t actually complete one.  It takes more time than we anticipated.  But we got a good run on it and she did enough to be able to finish it at home.  School will start soon, so we’ll probably pick up another Grand to spend a few days alone with us when we take Grand #7 home.  With thirteen grandchildren, it’s nice to have them one at a time.  We haven’t really been able to do that much.  They have busy summers and we have a lot of doctor appointments.  So the logistics don’t always work out.  But we’re hoping to eventually get each of them alone for a few days every summer.

Grand #7 was all packed up, so I washed my hair and was preparing to dress when one of Grand #7’s bracelets broke, so I got out my jewelry fixin’s and did the repairs—replacing some split rings with the spring rings.  It will take a lot more doing to get those off.  Then we added a found charm.  While I did this, Better Half and Grand #7 watched TV and had a last snuggle before taking her home. 


(Ok, that looks like he is smoking with a child in his lap.  Not exactly.  It’s one of those “e-cigarettes.”  So, no smoke, smell, or ash.)

Before I could go get dressed, Better Half announced he needed a nap.  He’s driving, so if he needs a nap before we leave, he gets a nap.  I fixed a snack for us girls.  While we ate, I checked email, Facebook, and responses to my blogs.  Better Half woke up and decided he need to cook the fish he had thawed.  So while he’s doing that, I’ll go get dressed.  About time, too.  It’s nearly 5.30 pm. 

Better Half took Grand #7 to the garden to gather tomatoes while I dressed. 


Then we headed off for the 85 mile trip to take her home.  Ran into rain about half way there.  It didn’t last long, but did travel far enough to water my gardens while we were gone.


Made a quick stop at Sam’s Club (a members-only bulk purchasing warehouse store) to pick up a few things and ran into a long-time friend I’d been trying to get in touch with for the last few months.   She had parked just behind us and was carrying out two gallons of milk.  Unthinkable!  She went into this huge store for two gallons of milk.  I’d have gone to a much smaller store for that little bit and saved the walk around the big store for major shopping.  Anyway, we had a good visit and exchanged cell phone numbers again.  She’d gotten a new phone with a different service and couldn’t port her old number or contact list.  So she lost my number and couldn’t call to give me the new one.  But that’s all fixed now.

Back on the road another long time friend called me.  We’d been out of touch since ‘87 and had been trying to find each other.  She had divorced and remarried, so I was looking for the wrong name.  She finally found me on FaceBook and I gave her my number.  We had a good visit and will talk again soon.

Youngest Son’s wife had BBQ chicken waiting when we arrived.  We had a great visit.  Youngest son used an architectural program to draw out the plans for our next home.  It’s coming along nicely.  I’ll share the floor plan when things become final.  Until then, we could scrap the whole sheebang and start over.  Anyway, we left there at midnight with Grand #5 in tow.  She’ll go back on Thursday and we’ll pick up Grand #10 for a few days.  School starts August 12, so we’re trying to get in as much visiting as possible.  Four of the Grands live too far away for spontaneous visits, but I’d like to find a way to get them here before school starts.

We got home at 1.30 a.m.  Better Half and I have evening meds we need to take with food, so a refrigerator raid was in order.  When I open the refrigerator a bag of chips (crisps for my UK friends) clung to the top of the door.  I moved the door several times and the bag stayed there.  I finally had to reach up and take it down.


Another check on email and FaceBook, and finishing up this blog brings the day full circle at about 3.30 am.  Time for bed.

I know this has been long and tedious, but the challenge is to describe how we spent the day each 26th of the month.  So a busy day takes a while.  I encourage those who are not participating in this challenge to give it a go.  It’s just once a month.  And loads of fun!  Thanks, Jilly!

Salad Season at Last!

100_3425 Finally, the weather has gotten warm enough for salad—a really big, nothing-else-needed-for-dinner salad.  It started innocently enough.  Just iceberg lettuce.  I didn’t have any romaine or spinach.  Then came freshly boiled chicken (thanks to Red Dog’s new diet) followed by sliced yellow squash, chopped tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, and baby carrots.  Top it off with shredded cheese and a drizzle of Vidalia onion vinaigrette.  Ahhhh.  Tastes like summer…..

Introducing Jimmy Dean Owens

It’s a name that sounds like a merger of sausage companies.  And for good reason.  Jimmie Dean Owens is a second generation captivity-raised wild hog.  Better Half bought him for bacon—and sausage.  (Yep, he’s retired and still bringing home the bacon.)  True to the wild hog nature, Jimmie Dean Owens is a mean son-of-a pork chop.  If he proves to be too entertaining, he may not live long enough to become a boar.  In that case, we will change his name to Sooner Sausage.

  Jimmy Dean Owens

ICE: In Case of Emergency

 ICE flash drive

Grand #7 has severe food allergies.  So Better Half and I went shopping online for a medical alert ID bracelet—just in case she has a reaction and can’t explain what is happening.  We decided on a tag that slides over a sport band—effectively hiding all her personal information.  The front says “Severe Food Allergies see reverse remove band.”  So her name and emergency phone numbers are protected from prying eyes and the wear and tear of being worn by an active eight-year-old.  We bought her two bands—one to wear, one to wash.  It’s cute and should arrive by Monday.  Her siblings are a bit jealous.

But it got us thinking about our own emergency preparedness.  I emailed PCDoc to enquire whether I need a medical alert bracelet and, if so, what should it say?  Her return email simply listed what should be engraved.  Dang it.  I’d have rather she said, “No. You don’t need one.”  I was just so darn grateful that she didn’t suggest I use the inscription “CAUTION:  crazy, hormonal woman.  Be prepared to run!” that I sent her a note of appreciation.  (I am, after all, pretty sure that she thought about suggesting that alternative.)  Whereupon, PCNurse emailed back a thanks-for-the-laugh kind of thing.  <shaking head bewildered>  I swear, half the time they don’t get my jokes; and half the time that I’m being serious, they think I’m funny.

I decided to save money on my bracelet and shopped on eBay.  I ordered the ID plaque from an engraver and will make my own bracelet.  I like to tinker with jewelry.  Part of the inscription reads, “see USB.”  While I am waiting for my ID plaque to be engraved and shipped, I put more detailed information into a .rtf text document.  There are no pictures.  And an .rtf document uses basic formatting, tables and all, while making a smaller file size than a .doc file.   I named the file “ICE for Nancy January.”  Then I exported the file as a PDF, which makes it an even smaller readable file.

When a patient can’t, or has difficulty, providing more detailed information than a bracelet or necklace can hold, emergency personnel look for an“ICE” file.  Since nearly all emergency rooms and vehicles have computers with USB ports, ICE flash drives are becoming increasingly popular.  There are many options available—including a subscription service for storing your information online and a customer service person to help paramedics with ICE information.  That’s expensive.  The least expensive, and probably most secure, is to just make your own and update it as needed.

I have a couple of old, small capacity flash drives that I haven’t used in about two years.  One is only 32 MB.  More than enough to hold all of the emergency information for me, Better Half, Red Dog, and all of our descendents.  I cleared off all the old files and downloaded  a portable PDF viewer to the flash drive. 

Portable applications run from the flash drive without having to be installed on a computer.  It’s a handy feature that lets you access your flash drive files without leaving anything behind on the computer you use to access it.  So I went to and downloaded the free PDF viewer.  It allows viewing, saving, and printing.  But not copy/paste or editing.  It’s a simple program with a footprint of only 1.4 MB.

My ICE file is only 0.06 MB.  So everything I need “ICE” takes less than 1.5 MB on my flash drive.  I will order a medical alert charm to put on the drive’s tether to mark it as my ICE drive just in case I have more than one flash drive with me if/when paramedics need my information.  In the meantime, I’ve printed a label and will cover it with transparent tape to help preserve it.

So what goes in an ICE file?  I found several helpful websites with a variety of suggestions.  Basically, it should include any information an emergency room will need to give you emergency care if you are unconscious and there is no one available to speak for you.

Mine begins with my name and description.  I don’t want to be “Jane Doe.”  And if I am in an accident in which my flash drive is found on the floorboard of the car and there are other females needing care, I want them to be able to identify which one the file belongs to.  So name, hair and eye color, height, weight, month and year of birth, and blood type.  Okay, blood type is not going to help them identify me.  But they might need that information quickly, so I want it near the top of the file.  My day of birth, address, phone number, and Social Security number are not listed to prevent identity theft if I lose the flash drive.

Next is my emergency contact information.  Better Half is listed first with his cell phone number.  But he is usually with me when I am away from home, so just in case he is unconscious from the same accident, I listed Baby Boy’s cell phone number.  Following that is PCDoc’s name and number.  Then comes my list of medical conditions that need to be known in an emergency.  I didn’t list “high cholesterol” because that doesn’t matter in the ER.  But I did include “sleep apnea” because, if I’m unconscious, they need to know that I need a CPAP to keep me breathing regularly.

Allergies are next, then medicines I take regularly—including dosage, frequency, prescribing physician, and why I take it.  Many medicines can be prescribed for multiple conditions.  So it’s important to let the ER know why I take each one.  After that I list my primary and secondary insurance companies, but not the account/policy numbers.  They can get those from me when I’m awake or from my emergency contacts.  Still, it will inform them that I do have insurance.  And that may influence the quality of care I get.  It shouldn’t, but sometimes it does.

I added a complete list of each doctor’s name, specialty, address, and phone number—beginning with PCDoc.  This list is also good for a quick reference when I need to find a doctor’s phone number, mail them something, recommend a doctor to someone, or have to fill out forms.

Finally, I have included the name and phone number of my pharmacy and medical equipment provider.  I can’t say that the ER will need this information unless they need to ask questions about my meds or get a loaner CPAP with the proper settings for me.  But, again, it is a handy reference if I need the information.

I am going to make an ICE file for Better Half and add that to my flash drive.  It would have been very helpful to have had that with me when he had his heart attack and I couldn’t remember his meds, doctor’s phone number, etc.  Who can remember essential details under such conditions?  I will make a duplicate ICE drive for him to carry.  That way, God forbid, if we get in an accident and only one flash drive is found, both files will be available.  Or if only one of us goes into the hospital, the other will have the essential information.

Paramedics are taught to look for ICE files in the refrigerator when in a person’s home.  I’ll put a note on our refrigerator to tell them where to find our USB drives with our ICE files.

For some people, simply adding “ICE” (instead of a person’s name) to their cell phone address book with an emergency phone number may be enough.

I hope you’ll take time to make your own ICE file—before you need it.  Whatever you use, be sure to label the location of the file with “ICE,” to make it easier to find in an emergency.

Red Dog Had a Hard Weekend

Honey in Leaves Spring2010

The Red Dog had a rough weekend.  She wandered around, fretted, couldn’t find the right hidey-hole, and wouldn’t eat or drink.  She wrapped herself around my wheelchair so tightly I couldn’t move.  She didn’t respond to voice commands.  None of this was normal for her.

So Monday, Better Half and I took her to the vet to see if he could figure out what she couldn’t tell us.  He’s a good vet, took his time looking her over.  X-rays confirmed his suspicions of severe arthritis, parasites, and a tumor.  He expected to find several cancerous tumors, but there is only one.  It’s a third the size of her heart and pressing up against it.

The Red Dog is fourteen years old and has been losing weight steadily for several months.  She is too old and weak for surgery or chemo.  The vet gave her some wormer, cortisone for the arthritis, prescriptions, and a new diet for a few days.

So now we have to feed her cottage cheese, boiled chicken, and rice.  We have never fed her “people” food because her digestive track turns it into a cloud that will fumigate the whole neighborhood and make horses faint. But now I am cooking for her.  She watches me through cataracts, but knows when I’m fixing her food.  I’m afraid it will be hard to break her of the expectation once she no longer needs the special diet.

It has, however, brought her appetite back.  All of her odd behaviors have stopped.  She is more active and alert in spite of the pain meds she now gets twice a day (and likely will the rest of her life). I will have to get her a pill box to sort her meds out and be sure she gets them when we take ours. 

We won’t be able to leave her as we have done when doctor appointments force us to be away overnight.  We’ll have to take her along or find a sitter who can get the pills down her.  She doesn’t fight the pills going in or bite.  But she is fairly good at spitting the pills out.  It’s a bit of an art getting her to swallow them on the first try.

There is good news.  Her vital functions are all fine.  No kidney problems, bowel obstructions, congestion in heart or lungs.  If she can gain some weight back and take her meds everyday, she should be with us a good while longer.

We’ll count it a blessing, even if it means we have to spoil her a little more.  And we’ll keep the gas masks handy—just in case.

In Equal Measure…

Grand #5 turned ten yesterday.  Her party will be on Saturday.  She chose “Science” as her theme.  Smart girl.  Takes after her grandmother….

An online friend who did not know this sent me a link to the perfect gift: a kitchen measuring cup.  My friend sent the link because she thought this item is unique and amusing.  When I saw the picture, I immediately thought of something my doctor had said, “I follow the science.”  And I wondered where a person would wind up if they followed this.  The question is intriguing.  Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I ordered several. 

My granddaughter will certainly get one.  The others will be “shared” with friends and family who will report back about what this measuring cup inspires.  Curiosity?  Invention?  Creativity?  Inquiry?  Experiments?  Breakfast?

Check it out.  Equal Measure: kitchen measurements in a whole new light.

equal measure 1 equal measure 2

I just realized why sneezing feels like I’m blowing my brains out. And I’ve got half a mind to tell you. I can’t though. It’s full of milk at the moment.