Our so-called President, DJT, is whining that Nordstrom's is treating his daughter unfairly by making a decision to no longer carry Ivanka's line of whatever she peddles.  The simple, incontrovertible truth:  Nordstrom's is a an entity that is free to make business decisions as it sees fit (within the realm of the law).  The impetus for the decision is immaterial.  If Ivanka is half the businesswoman that she is espoused to be, then she must be bristling at her father's yammerin'. I take nothing away from her accomplishments.

Ironically, spawn of so-called President, DJT, JR stated in response to workplace harrassment:

"If you can't handle some of the basic stuff that's become a problem in the workforce today, you don't belong in the work force. You should go maybe teach kindergarten,"


I suppose that he may be counseling his sister to go teach kindergarten if she is unable to deal with a very basic business event to folks saying no to your wares.  It happens.  No one but DJT in is silly string mind wins 100% of the time.

Stupefying--a word that I seem to be using often.

Purging a Lifetime

With my father's demise, and my mother having passed 28 years prior, I'm going through two lifetime's of stuff with my stepmother who shared 25 years with my father.  At times it is very emotional seeing long-forgotten and in many cases, never-seen items.

As I look around me, I think of the things that my kids might sift through and wonder, "What is this?" or "Why on earth would she keep that?".  Things are just that, "things."  Becoming attached to them is not such a good thing.  And as I look around, I realize that someone many of the 'things' that I have seem to have become part of my shared DNA.

I realize now why parents do not part with this things prior to their death.  So many tangible memories imbued in the the stuff that fills our lives--holds our precious things, supports our life, and reflects who we are.

Pressure Cooking

I was at my local N&W Salvage and stumbled upon a mountain of pressure cookers.  I've seen pressure cookers in there before, but having 3 at home, I've passed them by.

The current stock is Fagor Duo in 6-10qt models, and they had exceptional pricing.  The price for a 10qt was $69.99--about $50 cheaper than Amazon.

My three pressure cookers are large 16 and 20 qt and a  smaller 5 .5 qt model.  I use the latter daily as part of making my dog's food preparation--using it to effortlessly cook their starch (white rice, lentils, beans, brown rice) as well as making food for us.  However, the size of the pan is limiting. 

As I was fixing my dog's food after walking away from the purchase earlier in the day, I decided that the larger size would give me more flexibility.  Plus, it was budget friendly.  I went back the next day, and I'm ever glad that I did for these reasons:
  • quality exceptional
  • size is roomy, and perfect for family meal sized prep 
The only con is that the 'trivet' that comes with it is a joke.  The steamer basked is great, but it would be nice if it were taller. It has 2 pressure settings in addition to a setting that allows you to cook sans pressure (e.g. an open valve).  Yesterday, I used that feature to make a large pot of bean soup.  I was able to keep the top on, heat low, and they cooked to perfection.

No buyer's remorse, and this is a valued cook's tool.

The Hard Work of Dying

My father's terminal illness diagnosis came early June, about 3 weeks after he presented with a broken collar bone--the result of his simply rolling over in bed.  My stepmom was visiting her daughter in Illinois.  My father was not alarmed; he called me to tell me he was driving himself to the emergency room.  "No, Dad.  Call your orthopedic and ask them to see you today."

Our odyssey began with this left collarbone "pathological break."  Both he and I knew that nothing good would unfold from this.  I took him home and immediately hit the internet.  He went either that afternoon or the next day to The Cremation Society and took care of things. 

The prevailing question for all of us is "How long?"  It had less of an urgency at the beginning as my father felt reasonably well, was ambulatory, and could engage in all of the activities that he could enjoy.  The urgency of the ask escalated with the more debilitating effects of the progress of his stage IV liver cancer:  cane, walker,  wheel chair, furniture moving belt to go from bed to bedside pot--the latter being a surprising freedom clung to when all other freedom from the bed is now out of reach.

My father's younger brother at 72 is 12 years my father's junior, came to help us last Tuesday.  While I know many of the stories on my mother's side of the family, largely due to my Nanny telling them in an animated fashion while drinking coffee around the kitchen table, my father's history is somewhat hidden.  My uncle tells my sister, "You daddy is the closest thing to a father that I ever had."  He tells me, "We would have starved if it had not been for your daddy."  He can engage with my father in a way that we cannot given their shared history.  It is an enormous comfort to both my stepmom, sister and I as well as my Dad to have him here.  It is not service to our family that I will ever forget.

Each day is now measured by fluid and food (if any) intake, outflow and pain management.  My uncle is able to use the furniture moving strap I rummaged out of my garage to help lift my dad's torso up, and then helping him pivot to the bedside commode.  This man who has always been independent has reduced his current situation as "A stallion put in a corral."  The last ambulation from the bed to the commode will soon be lost. Who would have thought that such a modest movement would be the one last freedom of a dying man? 

My father's faith accepts that God will take him when He is ready.  When I kiss my father each night, I say to him, "I hope that you die tonight."  My stepmom's visiting  friend heard me say this, and looked shocked.  To a dying man in misery, saying "I hope that you die tonight (or sometimes I say, I hope that you go to perpetual rest)" is the same as saying, "I hope that you have a nice day."  It is something that he prays for.

My stepmom's friend was great to have around.  She is thoughtful and energetic.  However, she has  not had the 2 a.m conversations with my father who asks, "How can I feel so low, and still be alive?" Or, "I don't know how much longer I can take this."  My father is a tough old bird--witnessed by the fact that he is still with us.  His toughness is working against his goal of transitioning quickly.  

Until I wrote this post, I had not considered how much the nearing of death is much like the nearing of birth.  Presuming that one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, as with finding out that one is pregnant, the time horizon steadily truncates from months, to weeks to days to hours to minutes. One ends with a new life being thrust into the world, the other with a life removed from this world. Both are as regular and ordinary as the sun rising and setting, but until we experience it for ourselves, we cannot fully appreciate the process.

We have honored my dad's desire to die at home. Being a participant in the sacred process of leaving this world, and offering comfort to a loved one preparing to depart is truly an honor and a privilege--as it is with welcoming a new life.  He is still concerned that he is a burden to us.  He is not.  But his frailty means that we need to enlist the help of professional care givers to give my dad a sense that others are helping and give us a sense that his needs can be met for hygiene and other comforts.  (One of the caregivers complimented us on how clean he was and how well-conditioned his skin was).  We've done our best, but his ability to participate is impaired.  We need professionals to help position him so that he is not injured.

My father has already made it past the mid-point in the bell curve for his diagnoses.  In the normal course of events, a baby is born on his/her own schedule, and a person will die on his or her own schedule.  All we onlookers can do is be there to smooth the passage into the world or out of it.  Throughout the process, I am reminded that I am my father's daughter:  pragmatic, efficacious, objective. 

Fun with Friends

My other friend, Leisa, who I have known since junior high school and who spells her name just like me invited our group down to her family's river place on the Rappahanock.  It was a short drive (under an hour) from my house, and it was a welcome distraction from regular 'stuff'. 

The weather was glorious.  Beautiful sunrises (blazing, blinding!) and the most stupendous moon rise I have seen in ages.  The moon was a large orange ball coming over the eastern sky.  We didn't catch it on Thursday when it was full (Sturgeon Moon), but it was just as impressive Friday and Saturday nights.

Being with old friends, laughing and crying about events in our life was wonderfully restorative. The great thing about old friends is that no matter how long has passed, one just picks back up from where one left it.  There are few things as resilient and joyful friendship.

Walking the Walk

I have recently encountered several instances within the course of the last three months of people purporting to believe in one thing, but acting out in a much different way.  It was a reminder of just how hard it is to walk the walk v. talk the talk.

Ultimately we see the world through the imperfect lens of our experiences and our processing of those experiences within the context of our personalities/nature.    Accordingly, the ideals of compassion, trust, fidelity, understanding, honesty and integrity and other laudable ideals are the manifold prongs of the tuning fork that we need to better align our nature toward higher ideals.

We forget, sometimes, that our belief structure (whatever that might be that seeks to guide us to right action) is referred to as our "spiritual discipline".  There is no discipline involved in speech that contains:   "I'm just telling you like it is."; "Your problem is:" "I'm just speaking my mind."; "I'm just being honest."  People who truly embrace honorable ideals and practice the discipline of self control walk the walk of their professed ideals.  Others just give lip service to it.

Nowhere are our ideals put to the test than through our interactions with other human beings--family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances.  When our stress levels are low, the water level in our transactional relationships is high. Our personal raft (our personal boundaries) is carried effortlessly through any turbulence that we encounter.  "No problem!", we exclaim as we are swiftly transported through the current that takes us quickly past any difficulty.

However, when our stress levels are high the water level is low.  The current is sluggish, the rocks and sticks (real or imagined) poke our raft.  We begin to take on water.  Everything is an unwelcome provocation.  These are the moments where our commitment to our ideals is sorely tested.  Do we lash out, or do we practice our spiritual discipline?

Joseph Campbell espoused this concept (paraphrased) in a lecture on compassion:  
When we have problems with other people, the core of the problem is seldom with those people, but within ourselves.  It's not what they say or do, but rather how we react to it.

I consider this concept one of the greatest personal tools of my own development over the years.  Naturally none of the above applies in instances of abuse.  However, when put the test in our ordinary relationships, it has remarkable power when invoked as a yardstick for how we should evaluate the situation, and more importantly, how we are to act. As it is said, "We cannot control the things that happen to us, but we can control how we react to it." 

For any of our strongly held beliefs, our conviction in and commitment to those beliefs are not tested when the water is high, but rather when the water is low.  When the water is low and we are being bumped about, it is in those moments that we are tested. Understanding our reactions to provocations by others tells us more about our vulnerabilities and inadequacies than the failings of the other person.  After all, we have an imperfect lens.  Nothing is more dangerous in a relationship than projecting our own fears and insecurities on to another person and leveling unfounded accusations.

When we find ourselves hitting the low water mark, reaching for our ideals, rather than ignoring them, will lift us above the water line.  And reaching for them, not ignoring, is the discipline needed for staying on our chosen path.  Otherwise, we get stuck on the bank of the river, taking on water, getting bit by mosquitoes and cursing everyone but ourselves for our predicament.


I normally just stick to relish for canning.  In fact, I don't recall ever making any jam or jelly.  I'm enamored with hot peppers in some sort of sweet medium.  I elected to try my hand at making a peach and hot pepper jelly.

I regret that I'm such a skeptic/cynic when it comes to OPR (other people's recipes) for canning.  I liken it to my dive into making my own dog food:  once I became committed to the process, I realized that that some people's 'recipes' were rather far afield from the science.  I found a couple of trusted DVM resources (Pitcairn/Strombeck), and then felt that I could balance the science and the mythology of dog food.

I've made a commitment to ensure that I understand the science behind the methods for canning.  Sure, I've done it all rotely before.  However, I'm willing (and want) to do the deep dive on the principles.  I simply want to be able to identify problems before they happen.  Also, I want to know what I can change v. what I cannot change.   And arming myself with some basics, I can generally spot recipes that I would like to steer clear of. 

Digression:  Miyamoto Musashi wrote the book of Five Rings.  I promise you that if you apply the following principles to everything that you do, all will be right in your world.

  1. Think of what is right and true.
  2. Practice and cultivate the science.
  3. Become acquainted with the arts.
  4. Know the principles of the crafts.
  5. Understand the harm and benefit in everything.
  6. Learn to see everything accurately.
  7. Become aware of what is not obvious.
  8. Be careful even in small matters.
  9. Do not do anything useless.

Every one of those principles are important in home food preservation.  Here are a few examples of things that I'm glad to know:
  •  Vinegar is not an acceptable substitute for lemon juice.  Why?  Lemon juice is a more powerful aciduant  (agent that acidifies the batch).  The point is to get the pH well south of 4.6.
  • There is a reliable on-line reference on the pH of foods, and you can find it here.  When (not if) you are tempted to make changes in recipes, (and the rule is that you should not), check the pH of what you are intending to swap.  If it is lower or in the same range as the ingredient, then you are likely okay.
  • Understand the properties of the overall ingredients--meaning that the acids are there to bring the overall pH down of your ingredients.  If you change the proportions, then the acid balance is going to be off in terms of either taste (too much) or safety (too little).
    • I love Plan to Eat for canning recipes.  It allows me to scale up or down a recipe base on the quantity of product that I have on hand.  This works very well for relishes, though I understand that jams etc require smaller batches--and pectin must be scaled which may cause your mileage to vary.  (I'm intrepid, and I'm not deterred).
With my father transitioning with his terminal illness, I'm feeling compelled to preserve in a way I've never been motivated to do.  Not a bad way to cope.  Yesterday, I wanted to locate some peaches to make a hot pepper and peach jam.  I found some SC peaches as the SuperFresh (not a place I typically shop).  They were 67c/lb.  That's a good price, and the peaches were beautiful.  I also found this great recipe at Colorado State University Farm to Table. (I see quite a few other recipes about, but I wanted to find a tested one).

After I washed, peeled and pitted them, I ended up with 40% more than the recipe.  So, I used my Plantoeat program to scale the recipe.  I have great digital scales so measuring out the pectin was not a problem.  One of my jar bands was misapplied by me, so it did not seal.  I just stuck it in my fridge.  I have to say, it is very delicious. We will see if my scaling has any long term effects on the product's setting.  I'm definitely going to make more of this.