What It’s Like…

Really, there’s no way to describe what life is like here. I’m not complaining because I have a fantastically blessed life. Overall, my life is so wonderful. However, there is reality in the fact that Jim & I are caregivers. And care-giving is hard. Really hard.

Most days, we maintain a super-rigid schedule because change is the enemy. There must be a standard wake-up time, breakfast period, wash and dress time, and then she switches between TV and crosswords or just crosswords. Jim tries to encourage her to play the piano multiple times a week and he has noticed days with piano-playing are days when we are engaged with her longer.

Because I work from around 7:30-6 PM most days, I don’t get a ton of interaction time and I typically see her after sundowning begins. For those of you unsure what sundowning is, it’s the period of time where as the sun goes down, the patient becomes more closed-off and quiet. Some Alzheimer’s patients sundown in an almost catatonic state. Not mom, but those hours past 2-3 PM are “iffy”. Sometimes we have her, other times we have someone I’m not familiar with.

There have been days where dinnertime is wrought with silence, broken only by Jim cracking a joke or two…sometimes she laughs, sometimes she doesn’t even hear him. I’ve even had times where I have tried to strike up a conversation and she just stares at me as if I’m invisible.

When I think about her memory issues as related to her age, I often wonder how bad is it? I mean, really, I forget a ton and I’m only 54. So, how bad is it that she forgets stuff, right? The key is not forgetting things. The key is, can she care for herself? No. She can’t. She can’t drive anymore – she started getting very lost about five years ago although she was never Magellan to begin with. She also is not good with remembering general health and welfare items. That’s why Jim and I are here. We ensure she is eating, drinking water, and taking care of daily standard tasks so she is in good health. And by the way, the doctor says she’s in good health (she went for her semi-annual physical yesterday).

We’re trying an experiment this year. We’re trying to celebrate her 90th birthday (yep…she’s gonna be the big 9-0 on April 15, 2018)  with a bit of fanfare. We’ve asked people she doesn’t even know to send a birthday card to her. We’re collecting them here on my desk and on her birthday, we are going to surprise her with (hopefully) a huge stack of cards. She loves greeting cards! (If you want to be involved, you can comment on this blog post with your email address and I’ll email you her name and address!)

So now you know a little bit about what it is like. This is by far not the extent of life here in the sunny Carolinas. But it is a huge part of my life, and my life with Jim. We are here for the long haul. Not looking for praise, just tellin’ it like it is….

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Ringing the Same Old Bell

I admit, I’m on the same path as I’ve been this past week but we had a family event that brought up some old feelings and my Facebook memories reminded me of stuff that happened about six years ago this week.

During this family event, I was reminded several times of how back in 2011, I dropped everything…and by everything, I mean my entire life in Charleston and moved in with my parents…dog and all…dragging Jim along every weekend (well, okay, he came up of his own volition but still, I was kinda his only friend in South Carolina).

I might not have had this luxurious existence in Summerville, but I had friends and I did stuff locally (volunteered with the greyhound group, went to church weekly, hung out with some friends I made through work, greyhounds, or church…I really DID do stuff) and I was “footloose and fancy free”.

That June day…I think it was June 20, 2011…mom called, she was in distress…didn’t know what to do because they’d actually taken dad from the specialty urologist’s office to Grand Strand Medical Center to get a blood infusion…and they were keeping him overnight. She wasn’t exactly sure how she got home, and was totally unsure how she would go back and get him in the morning. I asked her multiple times if she needed me to come up and help. She said no several times until I finally made her stop and listen. “Mom…do you need me to come up and help?” After a few moments of tears and sobs, she said yes.

Nothing else was needed. I had taken the afternoon off anyway, I packed some clothes (not many…just some), grabbed my work stuff (it was a Tuesday, I remember that clearly), put dog supplies in the car…and the dog…and off we went. I called Jim while I was backing out of the garage and said, “Mom needs me, I’ve gotta go…I’ll call you later.” And my life changed. Forever.

In retrospect, everything changed that day. I’ve only been back to that house three times since that day. My “footloose and fancy free” days ended. Everything was measured with “can I leave mom (and dad, for a while) alone if I go _____ (wherever)?”

Quite seriously, it wasn’t a selfless act. It didn’t take any thought at all. I wasn’t thinking I’d given up my life. I just did what needed to be done. At the time, my parents needed help and I was there. I didn’t ask myself a thousand questions. I just did it.

And really, I still say, “Isn’t that what family does?” Multiple times this week I was thanked for my actions and my response was….”this is what family does…” Family supports each other. In times of great joy, and in times of great pain. Family truly stands beside you physically or maybe just emotionally when you need them most.

I don’t have a huge family, really. If you want to get highly technical, my family is quite small. But the ones I have, I care about deeply. And that caring…opening up your heart and truly caring…sometimes comes with pain. If you expect certain behavior and you don’t see it…that causes pain. But truly, at the end of the day…truly when you strip away all else and you look into your heart, the love you have for those who touch you…it doesn’t disappear, hurt or not. When you think about events in your life and you look at who supported you during the highs and the lows…those are the people you will (most likely) support during their highs and lows.

This past week I really felt old…I felt as if my youth was so long ago. Memories of summer vacations and Christmases spent with people I looked up to, people I care deeply about…they all came rushing back. The sound of a cousin’s voice. The stories from … well, before I was born…they were all put out in a way that reminded me of some very happy times.

These ramblings really boil down to this: for family, you do what you do…and family is something you define on your own.

I miss those that have passed. last_christmas_together

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Saturday Mornings

There’s nothing better than an “early” Saturday morning (read that as 9:30), sitting in my dream kitchen, pretending I am living in my dream house with Jim…and no one else is around…….and by around, I mean no golfers on the golf course behind our house, no neighbors for at least 5 acres except for some horses, goats, chickens, and maybe an otter. Okay probably not an otter…but they’re cute! My dream doggies would be happily fed and snoozing on their beds in the other room…and I’d be … yes, watching Pioneer Woman while eating my breakfast I cooked in my cast iron skillet…Jim would probably be sleeping soundly (he is less of a morning person than even I am…) and I am lazily eating a breakfast burrito…my version.

Okay, so how it really happened was, I ran out of my usual breakfast food, and have nothing left in the fridge (hey, it’s almost payday) except faux breakfast sausage, a few eggs, and some parmesan cheese. This sounds like a breakfast burrito to me!

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I could tell you that the faux breakfast sausage tastes just like Jimmy Dean pork sausage but quite honestly, I haven’t had real pork (or beef, or chicken) in 23+ years so I don’t really KNOW what those things taste like anymore. This *does* taste like what I remember of those sausage rolls…you know the ones…But does it taste like real pork? Doubt it. ANYWAY, I use it because it’s fairly low carb, and definitely high protein. I’ve gotten pretty good at eyeballing one serving so I cut out a hunk and sauteed it in a pan coated with olive oil cooking spray.

Once the sausage was browned to my preference (I like to get this stuff crispy because if left gooey, it winds up tasting more like warmed up white bread…you know, that white bread that is super gummy?) I add one beaten egg mixed with about a teaspoon or two of milk. I just let them cook until they’re very dry. I’m a …cook ’em til they’re dry… gal with eggs. I don’t like them runny in any way.

Just before I take the eggs off the heat, I put about 2 tbsp of parmesan cheese on the top and grind some pepper and pink salt onto the egg and sausage “filling”.

I’ve got some low-carb chia wraps that look like tortillas. I put the eggs in the tortilla and rolled it like a burrito. Paired with a cup of coffee and my multi-vitamins, I made it a no-plate meal!

So, back to my perfect dream kitchen…yeah, I’m not sitting in that. I’m actually sitting by the window where the sun is shining on the thermometer making it look like it’s 80 degrees…and enjoying my Food Network Saturday…with Mr. Cardinal…

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Yup, he’s in that bush right there.

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A Little Udon For Me

I’m a fan of noodles. And I really like soup. When you put those together…you get a story, of course.

Something that grew out of my dabbling in low-carb eating (I am consciously trying to reduce my dependence on high carb items) was the desire to have broth, with a lot of flavor…and even though it is moving toward spring here in the Carolinas, a steaming bowl of broth with a pile of lower-carb noodles came to mind. I had in my head a pile of those thick, round noodles you find in a lot of noodle bowls at oriental restaurants. So, how could I go about making those?

I started with broth. Being 99% vegetarian, I went with veggie broth. There are so many kinds, brands, versions…I went with low sodium (actually, I wound up with unsalted) because I intended to add soy sauce which can definitely increase the saltiness! And then I just assumed flavors I would want in this noodle bowl.

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I love the tang and flavor of ginger, and for whatever reason, having the green and white rounds of scallions really makes it “oriental” to me….so, a scallion. I grabbed 5 snow peas, trimmed them, and then cut them in half. Then, took the noodles and heated them according to the instructions on the back of the package.

In a bowl, I used half the “single serving” veggie broth, added about 3 tbsp-1/4 c of low sodium soy sauce, and a squirt of ginger. Yes, as you can see, all are pre-prepared. Because this is my work-day lunch, I needed speed. Otherwise I could make my own crushed ginger and veggie broth. Hey, I cut the pea pods and the scallions up.

Once the noodles were warm, I put the veggie broth, ginger, and soy sauce in a bowl and heated it for 90 seconds. Then, added everything else into the bowl and voila. Lunch. Noodle bowl style.

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I’ve been known to drizzle a little bit of toasted sesame oil on top. I suppose any veggie could be added. I saw a picture with some baby bok choy and Japanese eggplant. I think baby corn and shitake mushrooms would also go well!

If you’re looking for a quick lunch, especially those of you in the chilly parts of the country (which seem to be changing…not necessarily where I thought it would be cold!) might consider making your own noodle soup. Use veggie broth, or chicken broth, or even seafood broth! Layer in the vegetables (and protein if you are in the mood). This works well in a microwave or in a soup pot too!

#noodlesinsoup

#oodlesofyummynoodles

#udonknowhowgooditis

Posted in Daily Fat Fight, Food, Journaling, My Thoughts and Musings, Photoblogging, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

By the pound

A pound, a pound, a pound, a pound. So…what’s that?

I was reminded today about the easy way to pull together a fantastic dessert. Pound Cake. I don’t have a new version of any recipe here but I’m waiting on this cake to bake…this time, I did it without a recipe – I went totally with the nature of the cake. A pound, a pound, a pound, and a pound. Here’s what I did.

I didn’t have a pound of butter, veggie shortening, or coconut oil so I did them all! I  did have 7 oz of Presidente butter, and then a few ounces of Crisco and the remainder I used coconut oil. I tossed all that in the Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment and fluffed it up – creamed it until it was totally soft and fluffy.

In the same way, I didn’t have a pound of coconut sugar, or organic sugar so I used MOSTLY coconut sugar and filled in with organic sugar. I incorporated it into the fat and continued to cream it adding one egg at a time up to eight (approx 1 pound of eggs).

I happened to have some 1 lb packages of paleo flour which is a mixture of almond and coconut flour. I added it all into butter/sugar mixture and mixed until it was light and fluffy.

My final two ingredients were 1 tsp of coconut extract and 1/2 cup of organic shredded UNSWEETENED coconut.

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Into a bundt pan i poured the batter (carefully, not to deflate…Demaris Phillips would be very proud of me…I learned from her today!) and heated the oven to 325 degrees. It’s set to  bake for 55 minutes but I can smell it now so I will watch after 30 minutes to see how we’re doing.

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For a glaze, I used 1/2 cup of culinary coconut milk, 1 cup of confectioners sugar, 1 cup of unsweetened coconut (1/4 cup set aside), a 1/2 tsp of coconut extract and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. I whipped the milk and confectioners sugar until it was completely combined. I then added 3/4 cup of coconut and stirred until it was totally combined. I transferred it to a small saucepan and brought it to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Once it boils (still stirring) I removed from the heat and stirred until it was thickened. I added a tablespoon of coconut oil and let it cool.

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It’d probably be fine without the glaze too.

A pound, a pound, a pound, a pound…and I actually WEIGHED my ingredients, instead of using a measuring cup.

#DemarisPhillipsTaughtMeSomethin

#nofearbaking

#Imadeitupasiwentalong

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It’s a constant guilt trip

So, I’m feeling totally overwhelmed lately. I’m not writing this because I need pity. I’m writing for catharsis.

It’s been five years that I’ve been married to Jim, and let’s just say that’s the most solid thing in my life outside of my job. (No sarcasm meant…truly, having a couple of rocks to stand on is vital).

We’re in the anniversary stage of the year. Dad was in his decline six years ago right now. I had totally forgotten (gasp) due to some of the insanity going on around here. And I am feeling horrible for not remembering…thank you Facebook for providing annual reminders.

We seem to also be in a stage where it’s better to hide and lie about stuff than to actually ask for help here in dementia central. So, instead of telling me you need something we can go out and buy…you “make do” with crap you can find around that house that may stand in for this item. When I ask about why you’re taking piles and piles of paper towels, you tell me you put them around “things” in your bathroom. Literally “things”. That’s the word used.

I am in a constant state of guilt feelings because I get internally angry and just can’t deal so I have Jim investigate so we can find out what’s REALLY going on. I’m positive that my disgust and anger shows on my face (I am *not* a poker player) which probably sticks in the memory…what’s left of it…thus making it hard to tell me the truth…I feel like we’re just chasing our tails regularly in this house.

My “safe place” has always been cooking and baking. But now, that seems to have added close to 100 lbs to my body, and I can’t even figure out how to manage myself…there are days I just want to curl up in a ball and cry but I can’t do that either. I’ve got to keep on keepin’ on.

Really, I try not to use my blog to complain because there are so many positive things I could use it for…use your powers for good, not evil…for happy, not sad. But it seems that on top of a week of truly sad memories (I do miss you Lisa…and Bob) I can’t seem to pull myself out of a state of complete tailspin.

I’m hoping that by not adding a picture to this blog, it will just “sit” here and not get much notice. But I have to post it, because I have to get it “off” my desk.

Have a positive weekend. #dementiasucks #caregivinglifeishard #calgontakemeaway #iwantapuppy

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In the Immortal Words of Mark Twain….

Now, y’all know me pretty well at this point. I’ve got some hot buttons. Bad grammar, bad music, bad food…a few political things. But don’t you push my animal rescue buttons! Don’t you do it!

So, someone did. Yup, they did it.

Now, I don’t suppose to know everything about animal rescue, or even animal behavior. I do know what I know. And, I’ve been moderately involved in greyhound adoption in South Carolina for 18 years now…15 of those years with Greyhound Pets of America, Charleston. Oh…wait…I was out for 3 years, so I only get credit for 12 years with GPA Charleston.

Not *everyone* has a background in retired racing greyhounds. That’s perfectly okay. But, I’d like to state for the record in the past 12ish years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a little bit about the breed. And yes, racing greyhound is a breed unto itself.

Let me school you a bit.

Racing greyhounds are raised as pack animals, but are familiar with and for the most part comfortable with crates. They spend their nights in crates, spend a decent part of the day in crates…they’re working dogs. Does that make you sad? Okay. But know this: they are familiar with being crated for more than 4 hours. More than 6 hours sometimes. It’s the racing greyhound way of life.

When a racing greyhound retires to an adoption group such as GPA Charleston, they have what we refer to as a transition period. Each dog is individual. Some transition quickly. Four days…maybe a week. Others take six months to a year to transition. It’s impossible for anyone to pre-judge how long the transition will take. During this transition period, we, as an adoption group, recommend retaining the crate as a “safe haven” for the dog so he or she has a place to retreat to. In addition, during the transition time, we highly recommend crating the dog while the new owner is not able to oversee the dog’s actions. This is for the dog’s safety as well as the human’s safety…and the safety of chewable, destroyable, edible items such as loaves of bread, pillows, shoes, plastic containers, children’s toys…anything that will fit in a dog’s mouth. Crated dogs are not a danger to themselves or material things you may place value on as a human. Is it best to keep crated time to a minimum? Yes, sure. Is that always possible? Absolutely not. Let me tell you a Mary story.

As a new home-owner and a new dog owner, and a woman with a mortgage, car payment, credit card bills and such, I work. Back when I first got my dogs, I was working on Daniel Island and living in Sangaree. That is, as the crow flies, 21 miles. In Charleston traffic that equals 45 minutes minimum, often times more like an hour to 90 minutes. So, since I worked in Charleston for 8 hours, and commuted on average 45 minutes a day, I had to leave my dogs in their crates for … do the math… over 9 hours. Did I love being away from my sweet puppies for all that time? No. Did they still consume food and cookies, heartworm, flea control, and assorted toys, beds, and other necessary items such as collars and leashes? Yes they did. So, to pay for my dog habit, I had to work. To pay for ALL that…I had to work. 9 hours away. And they were crated.

There’s the Mary story. Those of you who know me well know that my dogs were (they still are) my kids. I have never had a human child. I loved Flyer, Free Free, and Coombsy as my own…and Fusey and Chelsea as my sisters (hey, they were Mom & Dad’s dogs…thus sisters). They wanted for nothing. They were spoiled rotten dogs. In the very best way. They got love unconditionally…they still own so much of my heart.

Today I was copied on an email that called into question the need to crate a greyhound for over six hours. In calling the decision to crate into question, it was implied that over six hours in a crate was abuse and anyone who was party to such a thing should qualify as an abuser. The email additionally indicated that rescue (our dogs aren’t in any danger prior to us getting them, so rescue isn’t REALLY what we do) is meant to give the dogs a better life than before and spending so much time in a crate didn’t give them a better life.

Do you think I was mad? DAMN STRAIGHT I WAS MAD. I’m not positive, but I don’t think any racing greyhounds living at the tracks slept on their trainer’s beds at night, or played with squeaky toys in the owner’s family living room…they didn’t get piled into the SUV on weekends and taken to the beach or the mountains. They didn’t spend time snuggling on couches with “their people” BECAUSE AT THE TRACK THEY DIDN’T HAVE “PEOPLE”…so….I think during retirement most racing greyhounds (crated or not) have a better life than prior to their adoption.

Feel free to comment on my blog those who know me and let me know if you think I abused my dogs. Especially those of you who ACTUALLY MET Coombs, Freef, Flyer, Chelsea, Fusey…or any of the hundreds of greyhounds that we (GPA Charleston) brought to Charleston over the past 15 years.

It hurts my heart not to have a dog in my life. It hurts my heart not to have a greyhound in my house. I never EVER in my wildest imagination thought that there would be a moment after November 2001 that I would be without a greyhound. These past two…geez, going on three… years have been hell and the moments I get with ANY dog are precious to me. I couldn’t abuse an animal…hell, I can’t even step on a damn bug. Except palmetto bugs. I can step on those…

OH, I forgot to mention. The person who implied crating was abuse…they’re a trainer (they say they’re a behaviorist, however I didn’t see the degree the person has…ergo, I doubt behaviorist because that is an actual DEGREE) who actually endorses using shock collars on dogs. Um. Abuse much?

If you have questions about who this trainer is and are afraid you might get stuck using them by accident, feel free to contact me and I’ll give you the name. If this trainer never works again it wouldn’t bother me one bit.

The actual MORAL of the story is: before you come off half cocked about something, consider learning. Don’t just jump to a conclusion and present glittering generalities/baseless stereotypes that fit your agenda. A little research goes a long way. I think it was Mark Twain who said (something to the effect of) “Better to be thought of as stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Words to live by.

Posted in Animal Rescue, Crazy Random Thoughts, General Dog Stuff, Greyhounds, Journaling, My Thoughts and Musings, Philanthropy, Photoblogging, Stupid things people say | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Christmas Roast (Vegetables, of course)

I tried something tonight before roasting vegetables, so I thought I would share.

My roasting veggies this time were butternut squash, broccoli, and cauliflower. My “marinade” was where the funky came in. I used olive oil, sea salt, cbp (cracked black pepper…I wanna start a thing like EVOO), celery seed, and thyme (that was a great flavor). I used 1/4 c of Chardonnay and about 1 tbsp of white balsamic vinegar. 

That “zing” gave the veggies a nice, “Hmmmm, what was THAT?”

Roast for 45 min at 350. 

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Cured Salmon and Stuff

So here it is, another Thanksgiving – five years after Dad’s gone, two years after Coombsy has left us…and yet we’re still hanging on. We’re a little older. Not sure about the wiser thing, but we are definitely older.

This year’s excitement includes (hopefully) a real turkey breast, assuming Jim determines that’s what he wants. We’ll have some dressing, some potatoes, some veggies, and pie. Oh and I’m making my gluten free devil’s food cake because Jim likes it. So…there’s the menu. We’re also going to have a little bit of an appetizer – home made guac, and home made cured salmon. So, I was asked yesterday for a recipe for both my mac & cheese, AND for my cured salmon. If you’re interested in the mac & cheese one, it’s here. Cured salmon is less precise than others I’ve “created” and by created, it’s just my version of something I learned somewhere – Food Network, or out of a cookbook. I’ve been doing my own version for a while so it’s hard to say where I got this one from.

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Mary’s Cured Salmon

  • 1 cup of kosher salt (you can use Himalayan pink salt, or sea salt if you want. I just have lots of kosher salt)
  • 1 cup of sugar (I happen to use organic sugar, but whatever is your fancy)
  • Dill (100% imprecise here – I have a bag of dried dill and I usually put a couple of tablespoons in…if you’re using fresh dill, use a few sizeable frawns or leave it out entirely)
  • Salmon (again, not so precise…typically I’m at about ¼ lb – a small filet around 6”-8” in length and about 3”-4” in width. Approximately ½” in thickness. Skin on.)

Mix the salt and sugar (if using dried dill, mix that in too). It will look like you’ve got a TON of salt/sugar for the small piece of salmon. It should. You should have about two to three times what you THINK you should have (ergo, bigger salmon, more salt and sugar)

Wash the salmon filet and pat it as dry as possible. Position the salmon on a piece of plastic wrap that will fold completely around the salmon tightly. This is pretty important. Make sure the plastic wrap will fit and be able to wrap tightly around the salmon.

Pour the salt/sugar mix over the salmon. Because I typically don’t remove the skin, I just load it up on the meat side of the filet. If you’ve got a piece with no skin, you’ll want to nest the salmon in the salt/sugar mix. The point is to get the salmon flesh COVERED with the salt/sugar mixture. Completely.

After the filet is completely covered with the salt, wrap the fish as tightly as possible with the plastic wrap ensuring none of the salt/sugar mix escapes. Once a little escapes, it’s like the mixture screams, “There’s a hole! Come on, guys…let’s get outta here” and it’s hard to contain. I speak from recent experience.

My method is to then put the tightly wrapped salmon in some sort of zip-top bag. I’m a Hefty Zip Top fan, but choose your own favorite.

Chill the fish for 24 hours, at least.

To serve, open the wrapped fish and discard all the salt/sugar. You can remove any “excess” by using a damp paper towel but don’t rinse the fish.

Slice in thin slices.

FYI – items you can probably add although I’ve never tried:

If you’re a cracked pepper fan, you can probably sprinkle freshly cracked pepper on the fish prior to salt/sugaring it.

You can probably dust the fish with smoked paprika or ancho chili powder prior to the salt/sugar.

Like spicy stuff? Try fresh jalapeno slices on top of the fish before salt/sugaring

Mix lemon zest into the salt/sugar mixture

Jus thinkin’ out loud with those “add ins”.

Hey, I hope you and your family enjoys the holiday. I’ll probably post again before Christmas. I’ve been swamped lately but I really have a ton of thoughts in my head.

Posted in Crazy Random Thoughts, Food, Journaling, My Thoughts and Musings, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Love is all around you…

I’m gonna be vague and cryptic, so if you can’t handle my groove….this isn’t the blog post for you.

It’s been a sad, and yet happy week. I’ve experienced the loss of a friend, the loss of a musical icon, the country has experienced a catastrophic loss…and yet I spent tonight with some of the best people I know and am blessed to call friends. 

Intermixed (I might have made that word up) with that, I experienced my…oh, 50th-ish Tesla concert.

When it comes right down to it, music is universal. It is a language of it’s own. It is a language of love and connection. 

Love is all around you yeah

Love is knockin’ outside your door…

💜💜💜

Posted in Crazy Random Thoughts, Journaling, Music, My Thoughts and Musings, Photoblogging, Rock 'n Roll | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment