Saturday, November 13, 2021

Taking My Own Advice

More than once, a young person has vented to me that their parents are always telling them what to do. 

Yeah, I understand. Parents want to guide and nurture. But sometimes we go too far. I get that.

So, my teenage friend explains, in their very human need to break free of parental advice and become their own person, they decide to reject everything their parents tell them to do, and in fact, do the exact opposite.

And here's where I carefully offer a bit of unsolicited advice 

Hmm, yeah, I get that, I say. Always obeying your parents puts your life in their control, and that doesn't give you much practice in growing up. But isn't disobeying them at every turn just the same problem in reverse? By doing the exact opposite of what they want, aren't you're still letting them make all the decisions in your life?

So what am I supposed to do?

What if you make your own decisions? Listen to their advice, for sure, because they might have some good ideas. But then decide for yourself what's right for you. That's what it means to be mature, right? 

Right, my friend would concede.

About eighteen months ago, I was shopping online for a white vase. I'd peeped a new style that was really catching my eye - round and white like a big ol' doughnut - and I loaded my favorite variation into a shopping cart and was about to pull the triggers.

When an uneasy feeling began to creep into my mind. 

These vases were suddenly popping up everywhere. In stores, on blogs, across Instagram, they washed up like dead crabs in the high tides of my life, and suddenly I was concerned. 

They're too popular.

I walk a weird line with trends. I like to pay attention to what's happening in the worlds of fashion and decor but I draw a hard line at falling in line behind them. After all, I'm at least 77% rebel, and rebels don't follow trends, you know?

So I didn't buy the vase. 

Months passed. 

The vases continued to surge in popularity, and I smugly patted myself on the back for not buying one. 

Though I sill really liked them. Probably more than ever.

A few weeks ago, my second-born sent me a pic of her living room, and there on her side table I noticed it. 

A vase, round and white, like a big ol' doughnut. 

Oh, wow, I said. I love your vase. I thought about getting one but they're so popular. 

And then my second born schooled me.

Yeah, they are, she said. But who cares? I really like it so I bought it.


I suddenly saw it all so clearly.

Refusing to buy something I really like simply because it's trendy is just as silly as buying things I don't like only because they are trendy. 

Kinda like disregarding all of your parents' advice just because you don't want to to obey their every command, right?


I think I just learned a valuable lesson about taking my own advice. 

Meals For An Ailing Pup
Gracie's first post-op breakfast. She was ravenous.  

The vet's instructions came through loud and clear: for the first week after having a couple cracked teeth removed, Gracie needs to eat a soft food diet. 

Now that's not a tall order for a girl who loves food as much as Grace does. Pour a half cup of warm water onto her usual kibble, give it thirty seconds to soften up, and boom. She's good to go.

But you know, there's nothing like a ailing pup to bring out the Florence Nightingale in me, and I've found myself deeply committed to mixing up some custom meals for my girl that feature far more variety than she usually gets, and lots of soft textures. 

Here are some of Gracie's favorite meals for the days she's not feeling her best:

{For reference, Gracie normally eats 2 cups of kibble, twice a day; an apple after dinner, and a handful of assorted dog treats throughout the day.}

For a post-op upset tummy:

1 C dry kibble
1 C cooked white rice
1/2 cup warm beef broth

Mix well and let sit for a minute until kibble is soft, serve warm but not hot.

For a previously upset but now recovering tummy:

1 C dry kibble
1 C cooked white rice
1/2 C warm beef broth
Plus one or more add-ons, depending how hungry she seems to be:

1/2 can pumpkin puree
1/2 C browned ground beef
1 Tablespoon natural peanut butter

Mix well and let sit for a minute until kibble is soft, serve warm but not hot..

For a healthy tummy and a sore mouth:

2 C dry kibble
1/2 C warm beef broth
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1/2 C cooked green vegetables; Gracie likes zucchini, peas, green beans, broccoli.

Mix well and let sit for a minute until kibble is soft, serve warm but not hot.
Once the pill touches the peanut butter, I work fast to get the whole package into her mouth. Some pills have a bitter taste, which quickly spreads to the peanut butter. My previous dog, Ranger, mastered the art of detecting a icky pill and spitting out the entire mouthful onto the floor. 

For taking pills:

1/4 slice bread
1 teaspoon natural peanut butter. 

Plop the peanut butter on the bread in a little heap and bury the pill inside. Fold the bread over and squeeze all four corners together so it doesn't unfold. Pop into the darling's mouth ASAP.
You never saw a dog sit so still. 

For a special treat:

1 teaspoon natural peanut butter

We offer this treat to Gracie on a small spatula and delight in watching her go to town.
My dog intuitively understands how to eat with a spoon. Which kinda blows my mind.

For dessert:

1 C natural applesauce

Spooning the applesauce into Gracie's mouth is great comedic fun, but also satisfying and a whole lot neater is to let her lick it out of a medium sized bowl, held at the level of her mouth by a loving human's hands.

* * * * *

Good dog, Gracie! You'll be healed in no time, and then I'll have to find some other sick dog to spoil.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

A Gift For Veteran’s Day
photo by seaside lucy

The end of the war to end all wars came at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. 

Seven years later, on that exact date, my mother-in-law was born. 

I like to think that they are linked somehow, this day of remembrance, of courage, of honor, of heroism, of acknowledging the completely destructive and terrifying evil of war, and the birth of this innocent babe.

What a gift she must have been to her parents who were still weary - as I'm sure most of the world was - of conflict and violence and death and war. What peace and solace she must have brought to them, their long-awaited and much-anticipated second-born, and surely they doted on her. 

She grew up gentle and kind, and lived her life with quiet reserve. Near the end of her days, she would remark that if she had it all to do over again, she might be a bit more forceful in stating her own mind, but in this life, she never was. Down to the very end, she put her own opinions aside to do all that she could to make life peaceful and easy for those around her, for those she loved. 

In many ways, my mother-in-law embodied the exact opposite of war. 

And so on this Veterans' Day, 

I reflect on the horrors of war 
I honor the millions of kind, gentle souls who gave their lives for my freedom 
I treasure the memory of my mother-in-law who lived her life as the antithesis of war. 

In the red poppies that symbolize this day, I see her gentle face. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Tale Of The Plant Table

Once upon a time, my parents-in-law built a house.

Okay, so that was a crazy long time ago but the fact remains that they did indeed build a house and at the back of that house was a perfectly lovely porch. 

More of a stoop, I suppose. A spacious stoop. A stretch of concrete large enough for a handful of outdoor chairs with a few steps descending to the backyard.

I don't know for sure as I never saw this porch with my own two eyes. I'm only riffing off the stories I've been told.

Anyway, once the kids were grown and their college tuition all paid off, my father-in-law got the itch for change and decided to give this spot a bit of a glow up.

So he converted the outdoor porch into an indoor sun room.

And at his wife's request - again, I'm riffing here, but I think she initiated the idea - he built for her a plant table.

Clean, simple lines.
Mid century modern vibes. 
Beautiful cherry wood from a tree on his father's farm.(Or so I've been told.) 

And topped with an inlay of red brick vinyl tiles.

All during my years of visiting the family home, this table reigned over the sun room, sporting a plant or two and stacks of magazines, carefully arranged by my mother-in-law, of what were known in those days as "ladies magazines":

Better Homes & Gardens
Good Housekeeping
Ladies' Home Journal

When I came for visits, I loved to plow through her inventory, enjoying the heavenly bliss of flipping glossy pages during the day time, for heaven's sake, while my daughters entertained Grandma and Grandpa with dress-up shows in the basement. 

These were heady days for me. 

Anyway, years passed. My father-in-law died a quiet, peaceful death and eventually my mother-in-law decided it was time for her to move out of the family home and into a smaller place. And so, as one does during these emotional days, my husband and his sisters sorted through the goods to be left behind, and chose what they wanted to take.

My husband chose the plant table.

Now, all in all, that made me very happy. I had nothing but love for the plant table...when it lived at my in-laws' home. And while I appreciated its clean lines and that insane wood, and I was thrilled to continue the legacy of the plant table with my menagerie of houseplants, I was not altogether sure about those red brick vinyl tiles.

They looked great in the sun room. But in my home, they were a little jarring. 

For a number of years, the plant table drifted in and out of my rooms, serving useful purpose and bringing instant nostalgic appeal everywhere I put it. 

But I could not get past the red brick vinyl tile.

I talked to my husband about the possibility of swapping out the tile for something more my style. He was all for that, and gave me a green light for change.

But my daughters were shocked. How could I think of getting rid of that red brick vinyl tile? In their eyes, the red brick vinyl tile is part and parcel of the overall charm of the plant table, and in the eventuality that the table might someday become theirs, they would very much want that red brick vinyl tile to pass to them as well. 


Far be it from me to destroy my father-in-law's legacy to my daughters, so I reconsidered.

And after a few more weeks of brainstorming, I came up with a new plan; one that we all agree is a perfect solution.

I sent my husband to Home Depot with the measurements of the table top, and asked him to get a piece of thin plywood cut to those specifications.

He came home with a trimmed sheet of MDF, but potatoes, potahtoes.

I painted both sides white. Same color as my floor.

And when it was dry, I slipped that white board onto the table, right over the top of those red brick vinyl tiles, and voila! My father-in-law's sun room plant table was transformed.

See, here's how the table looks when the new white board is in position.

But with a simple tug, my white painted board slides away and underneath, in all their glory, are the red brick vinyl tiles, waiting peacefully in the dark for their future date with destiny.

This is just the latest chapter in a long family legacy of adaptability and change. 

From an outdoor porch to an indoor sun room, 
from a tree to a table,
from a place for stacks of magazines to a home for my happy green friends, 
from those iconic red brick vinyl tiles to a sleek white cover,

I'm honored to be one of the problem solvers and find-a-way-ers of group.

I love my temporarily transformed plant table
And I'm proud to be a Streicher. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Is This The Real Life?

You can't tell, but everyone in this photo is singing at the top of their lungs. And it sounds beautiful. 

So I'm sitting at the Harry Styles concert, after the opening act.

The house lights are up, the crowd has been milling about but as the intermission stretches past thirty minutes, most are back at their seats and ready for the main event.

There's a certain restlessness that comes at this sweet spot in a live performance and I love it like Christmas Eve.

As there is little else to capture our attention, the recorded music becomes the driving force behind our waiting. There's scattered singing as a handful of familiar pop tunes - Britney Spears' Toxic, for example - float through the supercharged air. 

The final notes of one more generic song fade away.

And the poignantly familiar words of a new song punch the air.

Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?

Caught in a landslide

No escape from reality

Suddenly we are all up on our feet, screams echoing through the arena, and we all begin to sing for all we're worth. 

The Millennial and Gen Zers who make up the vast majority of this crowd apparently know every word to this song, but I barely notice. 

Because I have been swept far, far away.

* * * * *

The year is 1975.

The day is hot, and I'm sitting in my friend's Chevelle in the parking lot at the Livonia Mall.

The windows are all rolled up, because we were just about to leave the car, but at the last second, this song comes on the radio and we cannot resist it.



Crooning at the top of our lungs 

We belt out every syllable with all the soul and style we can muster, and the effect within the acoustics of the car is impressive.

When our six-minute performance is finally exhausted, we grin at each other, climb from the car, and continue on our way. And while the rest of our errand is entirely unmemorable, this day is forever changed. Little do I know that this moment will shine in my memory for decades to come, forever filling my heart with teenage emotion and my eyes with sweet tears of nostalgia for what once was.

* * * * *

Now I'm back in the arena, singing my brains out, my eyes sweeping around the room still thunderous with song.

I see a little silhouetto of a man

Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the fandango?

I realize with a jolt that to most of these people here in this room with me, this is a song from the past. Maybe they first heard it on a movie soundtrack, their parents' CD player, or captured on a mix tape from a musically progressive friend. But never was it alive, freshly released into their living, breathing present moment. 

Like it was for me.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?

Bismillah, no! We will not let you go.

Listen to this crowd sing! They really do know every word. But with a shock it comes to me: virtually all of these humans enjoying this moment with me have been born well after this song's initial run. They literally did not exist on that day at Livonia Mall, when we beat on the hot dashboard in time to the music and bounced in our seats to the driving guitar riffs. The thought gives me chills.

Oh baby, can't do this to me baby

Just gotta get out, just gotta get right out of here

Our musical frenzy turns to the final, fleeting phrases, and together, our voices float up to the top of the dome. I imagine them escaping through the concrete ceiling and floating off into the night, these voices joining the echoes of our voices from so many years ago. New memories bond with the old, and life goes on.

Any way the wind blows. 

* * * * *

Once concert, two stories. Check them both out.

Photo credit to my first-born who took pics while I jumped around. 

Harry Styles came to town this weekend, and we hung out. 

Yep, just him and me, and 22,999 of his other closest friends aka total strangers at his sold-out and twice-Covid-cancelled Love on Tour show.

Harry, if ya don't know, exploded onto the world stage eleven years ago as one-fifth of One Direction, a group formed from individual vocal artists that went on to successfully compete the UK's The X Factor. Branded as a boy band, 1D nonetheless took the music industry by storm and won a number of highbrow awards in their seven-year run. 

Considerably matured but still capable of making a stadium full of women scream with a flash of his dimples and mischievous smile, Harry's solo career is soaring. With side gigs in acting and fashion, he's got a lot to say and a wide platform on which to say it.

Which leads me to what I love about Harry Styles. 

I mean, his music is fun, I'm down with his technicolor crocheted vests, and you know, I'm not mad about those dimples either. But in all aspects of his life, Harry embraces a message of love, acceptance and kindness and that's what makes him beautiful

If there's anything that the 2010s have taught us, it's that mental health matters and we'd all be wise to be a bit more sensitive and compassionate to our fellow earthlings, granting them the space to live their lives as they see fit and embracing their right to do so. Harry speaks these messages into his music and his brand, which makes him a powerful force for good. 

Harry's all about doing good. He's dabbled in several areas of philanthropy, using both his influence and his wallet to support worthy causes, all the while advocating for positivity and hope. 

And while tonight's concert was mostly about his music, Harry definitely overlaps his life's works. I was touched to see how he chatted with individuals in the crowd, taking a few moments to talk with them as human beings, to treat people with kindness. 

Asking questions. 
Making connections. 
Sharing life.

He's so golden.

* * * * *

Once concert, two stories. Check them both out.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Mint Green

What if you had an old coffee table that you wanted to paint a new color but you couldn't decide which color.

What if you thought about it for years and years, for so long that the whole decision began to feel so overwrought and silly that you stashed the table into storage and tried to forget the whole ordeal.

And what if one day you glanced at a painting hanging in your living room, noticed a color that never in your wildest dreams would you have ever thought to paint your table, and suddenly realized, "That's it!!"

And what if you painted your table and topped it off with your mom's old dough bowl and glass fishing floats, and your dog was so tickled by the arrangement that she flopped upside down and literally laughed out loud in delight.

Well, if you are anything like me, you would be well chuffed indeed. 

art | west elm
paint color | behr ice rink
dough bowl | similar
fishing floats | similar

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Reading | Magnificent Desolation

Magnificent Desolation | Buzz Aldrin with Ken Abraham

Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon, and that is both the blessing and the curse that has driven the rest of his life. A blessing because he took this extraordinary achievement and built it into a career that has served him for decades. Speaking engagements, consultations, celebrity events, space initiatives - Buzz has taken every opportunity to grow "the business of Buzz,"  and finds great glee in his ever-expanding empire. And a curse, because his journey included much crashing and burning. Buzz suffered profound depression, alcoholism, two failed marriages, and much self-searching despair as he rode the fiery ups and downs of his post-landing life. He writes openly and freely about all of it in this, his second autobiography. Not many men feel the need to write two versions of their life story, but it's just another day in the supersonic life of Buzz Aldrin.

* * * * *

If you've always imagined the early astronauts to be a group of ice-in-their-veins, chisel-jawed fighter pilots specially gifted in terse talk and the ability to use a slide rule, you aren't wrong. Along that personality spectrum lie considerable variations, but even so, Buzz is an outlier. Several of the other astronauts who have known him well describe him by saying, "Buzz is Buzz," which is an extraordinarily nice way of saying that Buzz Aldrin is a self-involved, egotistical braggart whose perpetual need for attention and praise makes him almost unbearable to be around. 


Because underneath those layers of obnoxious self-promotion lies a tender, vulnerable soul who has never really gotten over the fact that he was not first but second to walk on the moon. His unrelenting agenda for continuing human explorations in space can grate, but Buzz is sincerely devoted to his space causes and genuinely passionate about this important work. Despite his Labrador retriever with a spit-covered tennis ball personality, there's something endearing about Buzz Aldrin, and if anyone asked me to describe him, I'd have to say, "Buzz is Buzz." 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Sweet Spooky Season
Boo! Are you scared?

I don't like scary things.

I don't want to freak out the neighbors with graveyard scenarios or dancing skeletons on my front yard.

And I most definitely don't want to frighten any sensitive little trick-or-treaters who wander up my sidewalk come Halloween night. 

But at the same time, I love the delicious excitement of being a kid out on a dark and snappy fall night with a bit of magic in the air, 

roaming my suddenly unfamiliar neighborhood with a pack of friends,  
daring myself to ring doorbells and stand on doorsteps that I wouldn't dream of otherwise approaching, hoping against ridiculous hope that the adults inside will give me candy.

So even though I'll skip the cackling witch's laughter and screams in the night, I do my best to play my part in this annual pageant by treading the fine line between the truly scary and a sweetly spooky night.

And the key element in my sweetly spooky arsenal is the tiny ghost.
My porch ghosties are spotlighted by green bulbs in the porch lights. 
Trust me, the effect is much more impactful after dark. 

I've leaned into this motif for decades, though in years past, I've relied on the tried and true Kleenex ghost which I learned how to make from my friend, Marilyn, when I was maybe five years old.

You know the drill - wad one Kleenex up in a ball and put it in the center of a second Kleenex. Fold the second one around the first one, and tie it into place with a bit of thread. Voila! It's a ghost.
My daughters make the egg carton and pipe cleaner spiders back in Girl Scout days; my fourth-born created an oversize web for them to perch upon. 

Suspended in groups of ten or twelve, these lil apparitions have welcomed a full generation of trick or treaters to my Halloween doorstep. 

They have served me well. But I must admit that they don't keep well from year to year, and many a Halloween afternoon has found me tearing through a half a box of tissues and tying myself in knots as I rush to decorate my porch before darkness falls.
Ghosties in the garden? Yes, please. 

So this year, I finally upped my game by creating a flock of semi-permanent and water-resistant phantoms. Made from yarn and suspended by wires, my collection of specters has now expanded to the yard, where my visitors can enjoy several pops of sweet spookiness as they come to collect their Kit Kats and Snickers bars at my door.
We managed to carve the pumpkins before dark, but just barely. 

Oh, I'm not fooling myself. 

I'm quite sure that there are plenty of kids who can handle a lot more scariness, those for whom Michael Jackson's Thriller video and Cruella de Ville are nothing but a walk in the park. And I'm sure my ghosties come off as nursery school decor for many of them.

But I have yet heard one to complain.
Most of my store-bought Halloween decor has hit the highway, but we are very partial to black cats so this one lives as an homage to our sweet Halloween kittens: Blackberry, Padfoot, Luna, and Sirius. 

No, it's for the more sensitive souls ones that I hang my little white wraiths. 

The toddlers who look up at them in, well, maybe not horror, but at least a curious eye and a practiced notion that this little cloud of white fuzzy spirits is not at all normal.

The six-year-olds who carefully reach around the low-hanging goblins toward my candy bowl, pillowcases extended, trying not to let one of the ghosties actually brush up against them.

And the older kids, most often girls, who appreciate the haunted effect and take a moment amidst all the excitement to tell me so.
I ain't 'fraid of no ghost.

These are my people, my spooky season kindreds, and for them I will always keep Halloween sweet. 

* * * * *

Trick or treat! Can I offer you a few more stories about Halloween?