A Ghost Story

Here’s a true story that I recently shared on Jim Harold’s Virtual Campfire and I thought I’d share it here as well…

Here’s some background to keep in mind: When I was thirteen, my sister died of cancer. She was 23 at the time. I’m now 41 years old. Well about six months ago, I had a friend of mine, who is a shaman, perform a journey session on me. During the journey, my guides kept telling her to tell me to “play more.” They were adamant about it. She even wrote it down to me in all caps “PLAY MORE!” I thought, that was interesting since I’ve been rather depressed and holed up lately. Then about a month ago my massage therapist told me about this amazing psychic that she went to and was raving about how I had to go. I’m skeptical but I trust her so I figured that at least it would be interesting. Keep in mind, this psychic only knew my first name. She didn’t have a clue how I came to know about her or even how I got her contact info, she prefers to know as little as possible. Well, my reading was very detailed and spot on and as we were nearing the end, she said that there was a young girl next to me pressing her face to mine and saying that we share the same face. She asked if it was my sister and is her name Julie? And indeed it is! She went on to describe this needlepoint tapestry that’s hanging on my mom’s wall that she had made before she died, etc.. The psychic then told me that she has an important message for me: “PLAY MORE!” I nearly died laughing at this point. I guess the entire supernatural world is conspiring to get me to have more fun. She went on to describe how she sees my sister swiping her hand across my desk and clearing it of all the things I have to do that keep me from playing. She warned me that if I get to work or come home and all of my stuff is on the floor, that it’s her trying to give me that message. Well, I was greatly amused but I went on with my life as usual. About two weeks later, it was about 9:30 pm and I’m sitting on my couch watching TV. My dog is on my right and my cat is on my left. All of a sudden there’s a loud bang, like a hand slamming down on my table. It occurred right on the table with all of my work on it, right in front of our very eyes, and everything scattered to the floor. There was nothing tall that tipped over…nothing that I could debunk. And all of my animals were right next to me. My cat just about jumped out of his skin and he slinked up the to table to investigate, all sorts of freaked out. I just turned the TV off, grabbed the dog and her leash and said “Okay, Julie. I’m getting up and we’re going to play!” And that’s just what we did. No complaints from her since.


My Most Impossible Feat!

This summer, I took a break from craft shows to enjoy flea markets and to also rebuild a teardrop camper that I can use as a pop-up shop. With the teardrop, I’ll be able to travel to craft events farther away and perhaps even go back out to Yellowstone in Summer 2017. One can dream!

I found the teardrop on Craigslist and immediately jumped on it. This is something I’ve been wanting for a while now and the last few craft events trying to vend in the snow and wind was the last straw for me and my crumpled up festival tent. Strangely enough, an old acquaintance had built this teardrop a few years ago so it was great to see her and catch up. You can find her blog on the build at

Sadly, the teardrop sustained some very serious water damage around the galley hatch and I had no idea how bad it was when I bought it. Once I got it home and began to peel back the layers, I realized that the water damage was completely throughout the camper and the entire thing would have to be demolished. This hasn’t stopped me though. I’m using the pieces as templates and reusing as much as I can. Honestly, I’m enjoying the crap out of taking the camper apart and I’m learning a lot as I go. Since I don’t know anything about building, this is the best way for me to feel confident in what I’m doing.

I will keep you posted as I progress but here is the beginning…

Here’s the day I brought the wee one home. It’s so adorable!
Here’s basically the condition it was in when I bought it. I knew from the start that I had a project ahead of me.
As I peeled back the layers I realized that not only were the walls water damaged but the floor was as well. So…
I’m stripping it down to the bare trailer. Here’s my mother looking at the disaster taking over her garage. It’s a lot of fun though and the demo is going easier than I expected!




My beef with protein

complete proteinListening to the Food Revolution Summit and staying with my mother these last few weeks have been an eye-opener for me. The things I thought were obvious to the rest of the world clearly are not. My mother has been on a diet pretty much since she came out of the womb and her latest craze has been a high protein, low carb diet. I’m not a fan of these diets because many people think that high protein means greasy bacon and burgers. Sure, they lose weight but at the expense of their arteries and kidneys. To each his/her own though.

What gets my goat the most about Ling Ling’s new diet is that she’s using yogurt as her source of protein. Adding to my frustration is that I witnessed my friend’s 3-year-old child eat four sausage patties for dinner and ask for two more like it was nothing. Plus, she washed it all down with a sugary yogurt drink. Am I the only one that thinks meat and dairy are not ideal sources of protein, for anyone? Am I taking crazy pills?

This is definitely not a rant to get you to go vegan or vegetarian. It’s a battle I know I can’t win. I could wax poetic about all the benefits of a vegetarian and vegan diet: it’s humane, it takes far less land (and resources such as water) to grow vegetables compared to livestock, it doesn’t pollute our environment, etc… but you’ve probably heard all this before and you may have too much on your plate already to worry about the bigger picture. I gotcha. All I’m asking is that you consider your own health. All I ask is that if you’re going to all the trouble to be on a diet and get healthy than please take that extra step and think about the quality of food you’re ingesting, not just the quantity.

Here are Johns Hopkins’ findings on the role dairy and meat play in cancer development (I strongly encourage you to read the entire list here):

  • Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion.
  • Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime.
  • When the person’s immune system is strong, the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.
  • An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.
  • Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus.
  • Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic; it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken, rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones, and parasites, which are all harmful.
  • Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remains in the intestines and becomes putrefied, leading to more toxic build-up.
  • Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from meat, or eating less meat, more enzymes are available to attack the protein walls of cancer cells, allowing the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

The other downside to using milk products as your source of protein and calcium is….well there are many actually. Here is what Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has to say:

  • Clinical research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones.
  • A 2005 review published in Pediatrics showed that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children.
  • It is possible to decrease the risk of osteoporosis by reducing sodium intake in the diet, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, and ensuring adequate calcium intake from plant foods such as kale, broccoli, and other leafy green vegetables and beans.
  • Dairy products—including cheese, ice cream, milk, butter, and yogurt—contribute significant amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat to the diet. Diets high in fat and especially in saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease and can cause other serious health problems.
  • A low-fat, plant-based diet that eliminates dairy products, in combination with exercise, smoking cessation, and stress management, can not only prevent heart disease, but may also reverse it. —Yes, heart disease can actually be reversed without medicine or operations!!!!
  • Consumption of dairy products has also been linked to higher risk for various cancers, especially to cancers of the reproductive system. Most significantly, dairy product consumption has been linked to increased risk for prostate and breast cancers.
  • Milk contains contaminants that range from hormones to pesticides.
  • Milk proteins, milk sugar, fat, and saturated fat in dairy products pose health risks for children and encourage the development of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Here is what the PCRM specifically has to say about yogurt:

Yogurt has gained an undeserved reputation as a healthful snack, but the high-sugar, high-calorie nutritional content actually makes yogurt comparable to ice cream or pudding. In addition, dairy consumption is linked with increases in both ovarian and prostate cancer. Men who consume the highest amounts of yogurt raise their risk of prostate cancer by 52 percent.

Sorry to say, milk and yogurt does not do a body good. It’s does a body very bad. I know, I know, I’ve totally burst your bubble haven’t I? Whoops, my bad. There’s light at the end of the tunnel though. No worries. People always ask me how I manage to stay alive (and chubs even!) without eating meat and only enjoying a minimal amount of dairy. Clearly, somehow, I do manage because my body hasn’t completely fallen apart yet. I’ll admit to completely hating fruits and vegetables. They’re totally gross. If I had my druthers, I’d happily exist only on carbs. My compromise is that every day I hide all of the healthy stuff in a smoothie: kale (yuck!), carrots, frozen berries, almonds, celery, apples, flax, cayenne pepper (helps my digestion immensely), oats, honey, etc… Lately, I’ve stopped using the pre-made protein powders because they’re loaded with flavorings and excess sugar and many of them are made with dairy derived proteins which defeats the whole purpose.

So how do I get my protein, you ask? My lightbulb moment came during a recent “discussion” with my mother over her belief that yogurt was a great source of protein.  I decided to add about a cup of cooked quinoa to my regular smoothie concoction to see what it tasted like and low and behold, it was actually delicious. My skeptical mother even agreed with me for once. If you don’t know, quinoa is a complete protein grain with all eight essential amino acids, it’s super easy to cook, any grocery store carries it, it’s much cheaper than a protein powder, and you can make it in bulk and store it in the fridge for future smoothies. I’m completely sold on it. So if you’re making smoothies, which I suggest you do if you’re like me and hate to eat healthy, sneak some cooked quinoa in there and forget the meat and dairy.

Kashi actually has a fun website devoted to protein and it’s super easy to use. First it helps you calculate your daily protein requirement based on weight and activity level (apparently I need around 51g). Then it provides a planner so you can compare and contrast different foods. For example, one egg has 6.2g, an 8 oz yogurt has 14g, one cup of quinoa has 24g and a 3 oz hunk of beef has 24.9g. Don’t fret over any of this though, most Americans get twice as much protein as they need–it adds up quickly. For example, by using the Kashi calculator and planner, I can see that just my daily smoothie provides me with 37g. I’m almost to my 51g in one fell swoop. Unless you barely eat anything or are an athlete, don’t worry your pretty lil head over not getting enough. Just worry about where it’s coming from and what undesirables (hormones, cholesterol, antibiotics, sugar…) are coming along for the ride.

There’s a batch of cooked quinoa that I’ve been working from and it’s already blended into this smoothie. You can’t even tell, it just thickens it and adds a slightly nutty flavor. If you don’t like the taste, just rinse off the quinoa before you cook it.


Adventures, Musings, yellowstone national park

Capturing Wonderland

The Yellowstone Park Foundation is having their 2nd Annual “Capturing Wonderland” photo contest and I thought I’d toss my hat into the ring. I only have a rinky-dink camera so I don’t achieve high quality photos but I thought even if I didn’t win, they may be able to use and enjoy my photos at some point. They have two categories–landscapes and wildlife–and I submitted something for both. I have great photos of bison and common landmarks, which I’m sure everyone has, so I tried to offer something they may not have seen many photos of before. Here are my entries (click on each pic to enjoy it in full size–especially if you want to see the otter’s adorable squishy lil face!):

Here's an otter contemplating a dip in the Yellowstone River.
Here’s an otter contemplating a dip in the Yellowstone River.
Yellowstone River
Where the River Meets the Sky. This is a view of the Fishing Bridge from the Howard Eaton Trail.

I haven’t a clue how to use Photoshop so I’m sure they could be a million times better. In fact, the landscape pic is too dark but I kinda dig it that way because the trees create a negative space where the sky and the glass-like water becomes the main focus. The only manipulation they’ve seen is the standard contrast/brightness/saturation you can use from the Microsoft photo gallery. I haven’t really bothered to learn Photoshop because I’m a true believer in the idea that what makes a good photo is the subject matter and being in the right place at the right time to capture it at its best.

In this day and age, there are many types of photography and it drives me nuts when they’re judged same way. I see it as boiling down to two vastly different approaches: There are photographers who patiently wait for magic to happen and there are photographers who make magic happen through creative editing. (Most are probably a mix of both at this point, however, I’m predominantly a waiter.) I’m not saying either is better or worse, I’m just saying they are very different approaches. Both are time-consuming and require talent, but one is more about having camera skills and the other is more about having computer skills. That’s basically why it drives me nuts when both are viewed as being the same. One should be considered fine art photography and the other should be considered fine art photo design. However, in this digital age, techniques have bled together making its difficult to determine where one begins and ends. Shew… got that off my chest. Okay, I’m stepping down off my soap box now.

Looking through all my photos was just what I needed to get me into the mood to travel back out to the wild west. Truthfully, a large part of me dreads it every year because I’m not a fan of driving for days on end. However, this year I left myself plenty of time to hike, camp and explore so hopefully it won’t be as painful.


People Behaving Badly: A day in the life of Ling Ling.

Ling Ling
Ling Ling’s clothing safari

My mother’s full-time hobby is selling clothes, toys and shoes on Ebay. Technically, she’s retired but in reality, Ebay is a round-the-clock passion for her. To feed the beast within, she’s constantly at thrift stores and garage sales looking for items that she can flip. Sometimes being a regular fixture in places that attract all walks of life, she witnesses some pretty crazy things and yesterday was no different. This is the three-part adventure of Ling Ling’s yesterday.

Part One: Ling Ling is in the Salvation Army right next to where she lives. She’s waiting in line to pay for her textile version of crack when the lady in front of her gets up to the counter and asks how much the painting in her hand costs because it wasn’t priced. The clerk didn’t know and said that she couldn’t purchase the painting right now and to please come back. Well the lady completely blew a fuse and demanded that the clerk call someone to ask. So the clerk calls someone who also doesn’t know and says to have the lady return tomorrow when the store’s pricer will be in. The lady proceeds to tell the clerk what she wants to pay for it: $6.00 and to just put a $6.00 sticker on the painting and be done with it. The clerk politely declines the idea and explains that he would get into trouble and the pricer has a better idea of what things are worth than he does, etc… At this point the entire store has stopped to look and there is a collective holding of breath for that magic moment when the woman goes completely bat-shit. The audience doesn’t have to wait long. Seconds later, the lady throws the painting on the floor and proceeds to stomp it into tiny bits and then leaves. Wow!

Part Two: My mother ventures over to another nearby thrift shop, post Salvation Army blow-up. All is well, she’s blissfully shopping along, until she hears someone gagging in one of the aisles. She moves towards the sound of gagging and makes it just in time to see a man with Down Syndrome vomit all over the floor. My mom asks him if he needs help and he begins dry heaving. She asks around the store to see where his caregiver is and the lady finally shows up and starts screaming at the poor, heaving guy. The caregiver and the guy proceed to get into enormous fight over how he needs to go into the bathroom and vomit instead of doing so in the aisle. He just wanted to stay where he was, probably because he felt like if he moved he may hurl again. And the more she screamed at him to get moving, the more he dug in his heels and shouted “no!” It was quite a scene and my poor mother, once again, left feeling extremely bummed.

Part Three: My mom gives up on thrift shopping for the day, obviously for good reason. Her last stop was to Wal-Mart to get a fishing license. She’d been dreading this stop because she loathes Wal-Mart but the woman needs to fish! In front of her in line are three foreign fellas (two of which barely spoke English and one who spoke decent English and helped translate) who are inquiring about guns. They proceed to tell my mother and the clerk that they’re actually from New Jersey but they’re here to buy guns because the laws are not as strict in New York. Okay…shady. The clerk makes sure to tell them that you can’t just buy a gun in New York and willy-nilly transport it to New Jersey. There are rules and regulations about such things. Then they ask the clerk if Wal-Mart sells pistols and handguns….nope. They were upset about that so they inquired where the nearest place was that they could purchase a handgun. The clerk mentions that there are legit gun shops in Syracuse and such. Then they spy some hunting rifles in a nearby case and ask the clerk to open the case (my mom is peeing her pants at this point). The clerk tells them that since my mother is waiting in line too, and it’s just him, that he doesn’t have time to open the case. My mom gets up to the counter and asks to apply for a fishing license and one of the guys decides that he’ll do the same while the other two scope out the gun case. My mom asks the guy where he plans to fish and he says something about Syracuse (if you know the area, you know that Syracuse is home to one of the most polluted lakes and waterways in the country–not optimal fishing) and asks my mom and the clerk for directions. Then he couldn’t fill out the information for the license because he didn’t know where he lived in New Jersey. He asked his friends what county he lived in and they had no idea either. Then the two gun-peepers proceeded to get into a little spat with the clerk because he could only legally sell them a certain number of rounds of ammunition. Well…needless to say, my mother got her license and got the heck out of dodge. When she left, the guys were still rifle shopping. I think it’s particularly interesting that none of them applied for a hunting license…just the one guy’s attempt at getting a fishing license. What were these folks planning to do with hunting rifles without a hunting license? Humm….

My mother came home a complete mess. She was a mix of terrified, let down by humanity and defeated. She witnessed a grown woman resort to violence in the middle of a store because she didn’t get her way, another woman verbally abuse a sick disabled person and three men attempt to purchase guns with, more than likely, the intent to harm others. Ahh…that was one heck of a day in the life of Ling Ling and it says a lot about the world we live in.


A gift from a new friend

DSCF1526Thanks to the marketing geniuses over at the Chronogram, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of wonderful people and gain some beneficial connections. One of the many awesome people I’ve been lucky enough to meet through the Chronogram experience is Ami. He’s a musician, poet, and bad ass Kombucha (Ombucha) maker from New Paltz, NY. He contacted me after reading my post about losing Barry White Kitty. Being the cat lover he is, he was moved to write B&W a song on guitar with lyrics that will make you cry like a baby. Here’s the link to the video of him performing the song. Thank you Ami, for letting me share this with the folks who knew and loved B&W. Grab a hanky because here are the lyrics/poem he wrote for my little furry companion:

He was a friend. He was a lover. Much more than that. He was a life-hugger.

Though barry white
stole a heart
his soul’s an ever part
with black patches
in a sea of white
his memories float above
in the light
of his boundless love.




wpid-IMG_20120524_071852.jpgwpid-IMG_20120522_090038.jpgwpid-IMG_20120522_090045.jpgOne of my favorite birds of all time, a house wren, has taken up residence in the funky bird house on my porch. I just assumed that the bird house would end up being a wasps nest so I was delighted to see the tiny little male building a nest in it the second day it was out. I left him some cotton from vitamin bottles to pad his nest with. It took a few days for the bird to trust my gift enough to use it but eventually he couldn’t resist. So hopefully if all works out well and the female approves, I will see 5 to 6 little wren chicks on my porch. I’m crossing my fingers.

At the same time of the move in, I found a dead baby bird in our driveway. I buried it in a place where I can easily dig it back up a year from now to collect the bones and re-articulate them.  The world works in strange ways…life just beginning and ending. But I don’t believe in either really. I just believe in transformation. It’s moments like this that I find the 1st Law of Thermodynamics insightful: energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Energy can change forms and energy can flow from one place to another, but the total energy of a system remains the same. It’s a comforting thought.



Farewell dear friend

I’m sad to report that a 15-year love affair ended today. I put my sweet little companion, Barry White, to sleep at noon after deciding it was time late last night. It was a difficult decision. I had my heart set on him running off into the field  someday soon and just never coming back, but he’s way too much of a mama’s boy to do that. He has been wasting away for several weeks now. A few months ago he was put on thyroid meds and he began to bounce back to his vibrant self until about three weeks ago. He seemingly lost several pounds overnight and pretty much quit eating (which is one of his favorite pastimes). I knew his meds were calibrated correctly because his levels were tested just a few weeks before and his blood work came out fantastic. The retired vet tech in me knew that his lack of appetite, weight loss and super stinky breath meant that his kidneys were shutting down and he was in the beginning stages of renal failure. I’ve learned from past mistakes not to go overboard trying to delay the inevitable and he was nice enough to make it clear that for once in my life I was not to intervene. He was going to embrace his failing health. So his last days were spent on his terms and I let him do the things he needed to do. No meds were shoved down his throat. No forced feeding. I let him go outside and visit with his groundhog friends and chase insects. He got milk and tuna when he wanted it and he got lots of love. He was purring, dust bathing, and sunning himself outside until the moment I brought him to the vet today. Even the car ride was nice. No despised pet carrier. He rode on my lap, pressed up against my chest, seat belted in with me. The windows were down and the wind was in his hair. That’s the first and only time I can say that he enjoyed a car ride.

My biggest problem has always been figuring out when is the proper time to put an animal to sleep. There’s such guilt surrounding this issue and past mistakes have, and always will, haunt me. Like I said, I was hoping he would make the decision for me but I got the signal I needed last night. He was laying on my bed–purring–and he opened his mouth to talk to me and I saw that his gums were white like a sheet. Being a retired vet tech, I knew what would be next–yellow. The jaundiced look of liver failure. Yellow eyes, skin and mouth. I would never want to see my friend suffer that way. The purrs, the nature walks, the late night kisses and booty calls were soon coming to an end and then there would be no more joy left. I’m not convinced his love would ever run out entirely–he is Barry White after all, the Ambassador of Love–but it would be heartbreaking to see his love flame totally extinguished. It was time to end on a high note and I knew it. This morning he went outside and hid in the grass a few steps away from the house. Usually he would be in a groundhog hole by that point–making out with an entire community of groundhogs–but he couldn’t make it that far–another indication that it was time. Then I cried and two huge breaths, like waves, washed over me and told me that it all was perfect. I finally got the timing just right. After so many past mistakes I finally learned something. And it felt good.


Things I will miss:

♥ I speak for all of us by saying that we will all miss the late night B&W booty calls. He felt it necessary to visit every person and animal in the middle of the night to shower them with kisses and drool. He would do this all night long. Every night. I joked that I was going to make a collar for him that would hold a small pencil and paper so we could all write notes to each other. He is such a vigorous late night lover that it took two baby gates to keep him out of our bedrooms at night when I was living at home with my mother.

♥ I will miss the drool. Such an unexpected surprise.

♥ I will miss how you are not independent like other cats. You are very much a little man in a tuxedo.

♥ I will miss how you completely take for granted the fact that you are bright white and black. You can be seen a million miles away but yet you think when you are out hunting in the field that you are camouflaged somehow. I could never understand how you caught anything.

♥ I will miss how you let my mother treat you like a little baby. She would come outside every night and call your name until you came running out of the woods to her. Then you would stop at her feet, sit down and wait until she picked you up and cradled you in her arms like a baby. You put up with this treatment every night. You are the closest thing to a grand kid she will ever have.

♥ Petunia will miss sniffing your butt, coveting your food and being jealous of the attention you receive when you walk into a room.

♥ I will miss my little lap warmer. You always loved being an active part of my work. Heck, you even wrote many of my blog posts for me and sadly, I took all the credit.

♥ Your ridiculously large feet/snowshoes will be missed. God gawd! In all my years I’ve never seen such wonderful paws. Pictures don’t do them justice.


I’ve learned a great many things from my friend over these past 15 years. Above all else, I’ve learned that we all sell ourselves short when it comes to our ability to love others. I don’t believe in one singular love or just focusing my love on one person. I’ve come to learn that I have the capacity to actively love ten, hundreds, potentially thousands of people at any one time. To love just one would diminish what I’m capable of and thereby sell the world short. Can you imagine how great it would be if people just stopped focusing on finding some “one” and instead found many to love?  I don’t mean any of this in a sexual way, but in an emotional/spiritual way which is by far more important. B&W lived that philosophy every day. He loved every dog, groundhog, insect, person and sometimes cat that crossed his path. There was no preference; his love seamlessly bridged the species gap. When he was with you, he focused all of his love and attention all on you. The magnitude of it often became overwhelming, in a good way. Then when it was time, he would move on to the next being and do the same. In some points of his life he collected 2nd and possibly 3rd families. He had more than enough love for all of us. So perhaps we can all learn something from him. 1. Love everyone you possibly can with no expectation of what you’ll get in return. 2. Be genuine in showing your affection for them. 3. Make them feel important when you are with them. Your time may be short with them but make it concentrated.

Happy trails to you, dear friend. Until we meet again! You were, are and always will be loved. I hope everyone goes home and gives their own pet(s) a huge lick on the face for me and Barry White Kitty.


A walk in the park…and taxes. Huh?

Here are some photos from a recent jaunt in a nearby park.

I’m kind of experiencing a melancholy day here. I have lots to get done but nothing seems to be going right. It has become abundantly clear that I by no means have the equipment needed to do the things I need to do, nor do I have enough time or helping hands. Cassie has been nice enough to lend me some of her skillz in the soap labeling and wrapping department (she’s revolutionized my process!) but I still haven’t made a dent in what needs to be done before May. After next week I will no longer be working at Bank of America so hopefully that will give me the time I need. I’m feeling a great amount of sorrow about the closing of BOA’s tax processing center here in Kingston. This is my third tax season working for them and I really enjoyed my time spent there. It’s a no nonsense, worry-free, drama-free job. I literally clock in, enter data while listening to my mp3 player, take a few breaks to eat and read my book, and go home. I can call in or show up late whenever I need. It’s understood that if I’m not there, I don’t get paid. That’s simple enough for me. I rarely speak with anyone but when I do, I’m speaking with a unique character (more about them in another post). The only drawback is that time goes by very slowly. In fact, some days I’m certain that time has completely died and is beginning the process of rigor mortis, but I press on in the hopes that it hasn’t.

What keeps me coming back year after year is the tax records. In a nutshell, I’m basically there to decipher the scribbled numbers and appallingly bad handwriting of New York State residents but to me it’s so much more than that. I get a glimpse into the lives of the people who share my home state. I know where they work, what they earn, where they live (don’t worry, security is tight, so there is no stealing your data for stalking or stealing purposes).  I know if they’ve moved or recently gotten married. And sadly, I know when they or their spouse has died in the past year. And I get angry when I see people who were born in the 1910s and 1920s still having to submit tax returns. Not only because their handwriting is now very shaky and a pain for me to read, but also because that old adage about nothing being certain in life besides death and taxes is so terribly true. Sad and true.

I’m fascinated by people’s handwriting and their submission styles; It’s very revealing. Sometimes you get those people that just don’t care so they will illegibly scribble all over the paper. One time I opened a tax return from someone that literally crumpled it up and stomped all over it. His boot prints made it challenging to read his return but I did the best with what he gave me (I’m sorry if you didn’t get the refund you were looking for mister. It would help if I could read the darn thing instead of just guessing.). Just yesterday I got the tax return that I’ve been waiting for for so long. Written in large print was something to the effect of “exempt from taxes under the United States/Canada treaty of ….” and that was it. The balls! I love it. The perfectionists (like me) use computers to type up their returns. These are like butter to read and are thus my favorite but too many of these will literally put me to sleep. The old-schoolers dust off their typewriters. Yup, I’ve seen several returns done on old typewriters this season. It adds a nice vintage touch but it’s actually hard to read at times because the placement of the page can certainly get away from people. In some cases it looks like the page just ran away from the typewriter and did o n  e     of    t   h e   e   s       e.

Today we got several returns from people that obviously had a lot of time on their hands. An alarming amount of time, in fact. One person hand-wrote about fifty 0’s on each and every line. So it looked something like this



That was handwritten mind you–on each and every possible line. Even the lines where there was no number needed. So that’s probably 80 or so lines like that. Meticulous, I say. I also had one that did the same thing with n/a. N/A literally threw up all over that tax return. I wonder what it’s like to talk to that person? It might be like the yadda yadda yadda Seinfeld episode where they leave out pertinent information and just n/a it instead. Another person put an X through every box imaginable. If there was a box looking for your state abbreviation, there would be an X there instead. If there was a yes box and a no box, you could count on there being an X in both. This person is obviously indecisive and can’t make up there mind about anything.

So that’s a little glimpse into where your taxes go when you send them off into outer space. They actually go to some cretin like me who does their best to figure out what they heck you meant when you sent in that tax check reading “sex dollars and 15 scents.”  We know you meant six dollars and 15 cents. We aren’t judging.









I ♥ Poetry

To balance out the gloomy days (like yesterday), I’m going to try my darnedest to share with you, at least once a week, something that I love. Something that truly makes my twisted heart and mind tick. Last week it was Zumba. I ♥ Zumba. Fish were made for swimming, snakes were made for slithering, birds were made for flying, and humans were made for dancing so don’t deprive yourself of becoming the Lord of the Dance. This I ♥ post is inspired by Mike, a blogger (and new reader to this blog) from Just a Man, his Dog, and his Truck. He’s a modern day poet. And some naysayers may believe poetry is dead, but he’s here to show us that poetry is certainly alive, well and doing mighty fine. So this post goes out to you Mike and all the poetry lovers out there. Here are my two all time favorite poems. The first one is by the great writer, John Updike. I expect this to be recited at my funeral–which I hope is not anytime soon. To balance out the heaviness of the poem, I’ve included some embarrassing photos of myself for your enjoyment. And the second poem is by the former Ithacan and Cornell professor (and my favorite poet of all time) A.R. Ammons. I’m so sad I never had the chance to meet him. Enjoy!

Perfection Wasted

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic
which took a whole life to develop and market —
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
In the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That’s it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren’t the same.
John Updike

Me with an 80-Proof Bloody Mary. Pondering whether to stay a shallow stain or become transcendent. Well…we know what I chose.


A fifth of me’s me:
the rest’s chaser:
35 lbs.’s
my true self: but
chuck 10 lbs. or so for bones,
what’s left’s
steaks & chops &
chicken fat,
two-over-easy & cream-on-the-side:
strip off a sheath of hide,
strip out nerves & veins
& permeable membranes,
what’s left’s a greasy spot:
the question’s
to retain
the shallow stain
or go 100% spiritual
and fifth by fifth
achieve a whole,
highly transcendental.

A.R. Ammons