Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Blog News

Hi friends! My new blog is up and running now and I have started to post.
Here is the address:

I hope you will all check it out and I will be thrilled to see all my followers.

Thanks for all your kind comments and I hope to see you soon at "Deedee, Home At Last."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Seems Like a Long Time...

Hello, dear friends! Happy holiday season to you all. I have been away for far too long, and I miss all my followers and your wonderful blogs too. But I have been very busy with a new venture, and I have startling and wonderful news to tell. After 31 long years, Mac and I have finally bought a home of our own. We will soon be leaving "Catbird Heaven" and moving into our very first house, just a few minutes away. I have already named it "At Last!", for obvious reasons.

In consideration of this new beginning, I have decided to leave "Deedee, Cut Adrift!" behind and start a new blog: "Deedee, Home At Last!"
My son is helping me design the new look and I will start writing very soon, documenting the start of my new life... "At Last!" I hope you will all come with me on this amazing new journey.

Wish me luck - A Happy Christmas and love to all! - Deedee

Monday, August 2, 2010

Despoiled by Oil

We all know the facts about the BP oil spill that occurred on April 20, after an explosion that took the lives of eleven workers. As awful as the initial incident was, it was to become infinitely worse; one hundred and five days later, it has been reported that over 200 million gallons of crude oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, fouling the water, killing wildlife and damaging an entire ecosystem.
I can’t begin to articulate the horror and dread I feel as I try to process the news related to this tragedy.

Even though the damaged well is reportedly all but capped now, the terrible effects on our environment will continue to be on-going. While some recent reports tout the headline that the “surface” oil is now greatly diminished, anyone with a brain will understand that the toxic crude, as well as the poisons used to “disperse” it, have become deeply involved in the water column, and that the food chain of sea-life found in the Gulf has been seriously compromised. In addition to the poisonous oil gushing into the water these past four months, 1.8 million gallons of toxic oil dispersant has been sprayed over the surface of the Gulf by BP and now, toxic plumes thirty miles long and seven miles wide are churning under the surface of the Gulf. Many of the animal populations that live in this body of water will be tainted for the foreseeable future.

As much as I would like to do all that I can in this bad economy to support the fishing industry of our southern states, I have started to check my seafood purchases to ensure that they do not originate in the Gulf. My health and the health of my family and friends, is too important to put at risk by serving them seafood from the Gulf. Think this attitude is reactionary or too extreme? Then consider this: Scientists have confirmed that a toxic residue of oil and chemical dispersants have been detected under the shells of blue crab larvae sampled from the Gulf of Mexico. It is a fact that the great Tuna schools of the Atlantic Ocean have their beginnings in nurseries found in the Gulf of Mexico. If the tiny fish are exposed to the poisonous mix of oil and dispersant, they will not survive. Worried about consuming mercury from eating big fish? I predict you ain't seen nothin' yet. Canned tuna is now considered a staple in many low-income diets. I believe it will soon become an expensive luxury as the schools dwindle and the great fish become scarce.

Yesterday I sat staring out at Green Harbor from the south coast of Massachusetts, admiring the pale green sea. As I gazed at the gentle waves lapping the white sand, I thought of the plankton and krill drifting in the Gulf and wondered how this food chain staple, the foundation of all sea-life in the Gulf could possibly avoid becoming completely contaminated.

What about the manatees, dolphins, green turtles, jellyfish and sea birds that live or breed in the waters of the Gulf? We currently have no idea how these creatures will be affected. As the naturalist John Muir said: "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."
How much more abuse can this fragile planet of ours endure? The full extent of the fallout from this environmental catastrophe I fear will be felt by all of us for many decades to come. We've known since the seventies that our addiction to fossil fuels is a dangerous and ultimately doomed folly. When will we get serious enough about it to go cold turkey and get into rehab? The time is long past to develop wind, water and solar power. We have squandered four decades - how much more time will we waste?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thank you, friends

First, I'd like to say "Thank you" to my followers, who have commented and emailed me, concerned at my absence. I am fine; busy and overwhelmed in many ways, but in good health. I deeply appreciate your concern.

I have felt unable to write for the past few months. Ever since the explosion of the BP oil rig and subsequent environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I have been too horrified and grief stricken about it to write about it. I feel mentally paralyzed when I think about the ramifications of this disaster.

The thoughts that loom foremost in my consciousness right now, are those concerning the wildlife and the people living near the Gulf coast. I am distraught and sickened by the reports and images of oil-soaked birds, endangered sea mammals and ruined fishing grounds to even think straight when I consider what to write about it. I am literally at a loss for words. I keep trying to wrap my mind around it, but I can only register disgust and horror. I will keep trying to mash together some coherent sentences for a future post concerning this tragedy.

But I would be remiss if I didn't offer my sincere gratitude to those readers who reached out to me and inquired as to my well-being. My family and I are well, my job and everything else is going okay. I am working on revamping the blog and will be back writing soon.

Thanks again for your support.
Love, Deedee <3

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Culture Club

A few years ago, I received a gift certificate for a manicure. As I am a former hair dresser, nail services were a part of my job many years ago. Up to that time, I had never gone to a salon to have one myself. I held onto that piece of cardboard for several months before finally deciding to go cash it in and get my own nails done.

The salon that issued the certificate is located just a few miles from my home, and is owned, I was soon to learn, by two young brothers who were born in Vietnam.
All the employees of the salon are Vietnamese, yet they all claim classic, “American” names, such as Patricia, Daniel, Crystal and Terry. My tech later told me that none of them use their real names, as they believe they would be too difficult for customers to pronounce.

The men are slim and short, sloppy chic and fashionably shabby in their designer t-shirts, jeans and flip-flops. They sport black, puttied, faux-hawks. The women run the gamut from very young to grandmothers, some plump and cherubic, others waif-thin. All of them have almond eyes and dark hair. Some are fair skinned and others quite dark; all of them are beautiful.

The two young men keep a tight rein on the front desk and the telephone, exercising firm control over the flow of clients that come into their salon. They appear to want to keep the money in the family to the extent that they can do it. The day of my first manicure in their salon turns out to be a very busy one, so I am assigned to a girl they call Tina. Since Tina is the only one who is not related to the owners, she is last to be assigned new customers. Although her accent is heavy and she frequently chooses the wrong words, after the brothers, she is the one who has the best command of the English language. This makes her most desirable to the local women who are uncomfortable sitting in silence as a non-verbal tech buffs their nails. The two owners and their relatives appear to take notice of this fact with some resentment.

Tina is a diminutive woman. She is short and thin, with a wide, round face free of makeup, with dark eyes. Her hair is stick-straight, black silk, worn either down, brushing her collar-bone, or up in a plastic clip. She rarely looks directly at me, keeping her eyes cast down most of the time.

Tina is meticulous in the removal of excess cuticle, as I soon discover. My jagged, peeling, dried-out fingertips become smooth, even and perfectly glossed under her skilled ministrations. And while nail enamel applied by the other techs invariably chips after a few days, Tina’s paint job lasts nearly two weeks. I am hooked. I make a bi-monthly appointment. Soon, I forget how to apply my own nail enamel without getting it all over my hands. I feel nasty and unkempt if I don’t sit in Tina’s chair at least every other Thursday. The eleven dollar fee is a small price to pay to feel so good about my hands for two weeks. It is a small luxury that I cannot deny myself while I am working full-time.

Almost immediately, I notice that Tina is eager to try out her English on me. I discern that she seems to be using me to help her learn about the American culture and the language, and this delights me. She looks at me quizzically, and repeats phrases she does not understand back to me, for interpretation and explanation, and I patiently oblige. I find her almost painfully sweet and feel a fondness for her from our very first meeting.

For the next several years, I meet with Tina every few weeks. She is curious about all manner of things in my life, from what I do for work, to how much I pay for rent each month, to whether I cook each day, and what foods I prepare. In turn, I ask her about various things, and I learn what life is like in urban America for a young immigrant from south-east Asia. I am allowed a glimpse into a different culture, and in this, I find a gift.

She went to college back in Vietnam, and earned a degree in accounting, but here it is not worth anything, so she does the only other thing she knows how to do, working in the nail salon. I am privy to her difficulties with her aunt and twenty year old cousin, with whom she lives. I learn that she rises before dawn to cook all three meals for the day for the entire household. She buys the fresh ingredients daily, from Asian markets in the heart of Boston, before leaving for her hour commute to work in our suburb. She rides with another girl now. Because her young cousin needed transportation to get to his new job, she has given him her car.

I hear about her uncertainty as she considers a marriage proposal, and I endure the painful sense of longing that fills the silence after she tells me of the birth of her first niece, back in Vietnam. I feel her palpable sorrow when she talks about her parents on the farm back in her homeland and how much she misses them. I take note of the look that flashes in her eyes at the sharp sounds, foreign to my ears, that come from Daniel, one of the salon owners, as my allotted time ends and we have been sitting too long, laughing and chatting while my nails dry. She walks behind me and rests a hand on my left shoulder for a moment and thanks me softly each time as I prepare to leave after paying her.

Last fall, Tina left for a six month hiatus from the salon. She and her new husband were expecting a baby. My nail appointments dwindled down to once every month or so. The new manicurists stare blankly at me when I attempt conversation with them. One shakes her head desperately and barks a few syllables at a co-worker, apparently asking her if she knows what the hell I am saying. After that, I stare up at the flat screen T.V. on the wall and resolve to sit in silence until she finishes. I wonder when Tina will come back to the salon.

It seems none of the other technicians can match Tina’s skill. I am dissatisfied with my rough cuticles and the substandard polish applications, time and again. I even attempt to care for my nails myself, at home, with dismal results. Then one day I hear that Tina is back. I make an appointment for a manicure after work a few days later.

She is there with a new haircut and pictures of her baby son when I arrive. My eyes fill up with tears and my heart swells when I look at her little boy, so tiny and beautiful, with his dark, feathered head and precious little face. I have brought her a gift: a green and blue fleece blanket festooned with little animals and geometric shapes, and a matching crib sheet.

As she files my nails, she tells me a story about when she first came to this country and got lost in the city. She was walking alone to a new restaurant job in a strange neighborhood and stopped at a gas station to ask for help. Inside the station’s mini-mart grocery, several middle aged men were hanging out. Tina tried to get directions from them, but they couldn’t understand her broken English and laughed at her. An older woman came in to pay for her gas and heard their banter. When Tina left the store and went back outside, the woman was waiting. She implored Tina to get into her car, and when she did, the good Samaritan drove her to a nearby Vietnamese market where she knew they would understand her. The market’s proprietor then told her that, according to the woman who had brought her there, the men at the gas station had bad intentions and might have been planning to do Tina harm, had she not left the gas station with the woman. The store owner then gave her instructions on how to find her new workplace.

When she finished her story, Tina looked up directly into my eyes and said: “I tell you this today because I want to say that I was so surprised that your people here in this country would be so kind to me, and to tell you that I feel so grateful.”

I reflect on this in my heart, and I find there a wish, that every person who comes to this country might feel the same way as Tina. I find there, a deep conviction that the things that unite us all are much greater than the things that separate us.
In the final analysis, we are all citizens of the same planet. We are all children of God. We are all human.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Movie

I just finished watching the George Clooney film , "Up in the Air", via my cable company. I've been so busy lately, I have not had time to get to the theatre to watch a movie, so the "Movies On Demand" function of my remote is a welcome perk.
I'd heard this was a good film and the trailers looked interesting, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I must say, I found the movie profoundly depressing. Don't get me wrong, it was well acted by all the principal stars, an interesting viewpoint from which to tell the story and very well executed, but from the first few minutes, I found myself silently sobbing. Tears streamed down my face intermittently throughout the whole picture, at the depictions of middle-aged people being told they were no longer needed and had been let go from their jobs.

I relate to this pain on a visceral level. I know first-hand, the utter despair and sense of worthlessness you feel when being told by your company that they no longer need or want you as a part of their operation. I know what it is like to be dismissed one day, left with no recourse, after years of dedication and hard work. I remember lying awake in the early morning hours wondering how in God's name I would pay my bills and fill my hours. I have an intimate connection to this terror; I know it personally.

None of it seemed real to Ryan, the protagonist. He managed to keep the ugly reality of his work neatly compartmentalized, and didn't let it get to him. He was unscathed by the hardship and pain of the strangers that he was paid to fire. The tables were turned on Clooney's character, when his romantic foil, Alex, showed him that his emotions were just make-believe to her, as much a non-reality in her life, as the emotions of the victims of his cold dismissal services were in his. In the end, although he'd started to become a sympathetic character and I did feel sorry for him, I think he sort of got what he had coming to him.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Decline of Catboy

My male cat is now almost fifteen years old. Despite his geriatric state, he is sleek, active and animated most of the time. His glossy, black and white fur feels like satin, and his green eyes still shine. He is busy much of the time, watching the birds through the window pane, nibbling on my houseplants or dodging Rigby the dog, as she makes clumsy attempts to play with him.

He has always had a ravenous appetite, but last year he became insatiable, crying and begging for food immediately after eating his meals. He started following me around from room to room, wailing and reaching out to me with his giant, polydactyl paws, stroking the side of my face to direct my attention. Clearly, something had changed.

A trip to the vet revealed something that neither I, nor the doctor expected; Catboy has diabetes. The vet spent some time showing me how to inject him with insulin, which I must do twice a day, right after he eats his breakfast and dinner.
We bought him a special food for diabetic felines, which he ate with gusto at first. It was a case of large cans, but before the last ten cans were consumed, he'd rejected it completely. Back to the tiny, expensive cans that he had come to favor early in his life with us. A discerning gourmet of a feline he is, his birth in a dumpster aside.

His appearance has changed drastically in the past few months. The flesh has disappeared from his huge, multi-toed paws, leaving them thin and skeletal looking. His face is gaunt and thinner than that of a siamese. His spine protrudes from his back, the bones now prominent as he continues to lose weight.

Catboy’s life is approaching it’s natural end now- I know this. I have reached the mature age when romantic, overly sentimental notions of life and death have long since fallen by the wayside. I look upon the death of the body in old age as necessary and not something to be dreaded or staved off. All things must pass…It is the natural turn of events, but as it draws closer for him, I have been thinking lately about Catboy’s life.

If I had not intervened and left him to live his life as a feral cat, his life would have been much shorter. I have seen statistics that claim that a cat living outside has an average life expectancy of about three years. Feline Immune Deficiency Syndrome-the cat version of HIV/AIDS apparently rages through the feral population, and those cats whose owners let them roam out of doors are frequently exposed to it. Coyotes and fishers roam the backyards and vacant lots of suburbia, hunting small pets for food. Throw in speeding cars, ticks and fleas and the diseases they cause, and the outer world seems like a deathtrap for domestic cats. That’s why I have kept Catboy and Ceecee inside for their entire lives with me: for their own well-being.

But, what about the quality of that life? Would they have been happier outside? Chasing chickadees and bumble bees, rather than watching them from a window ledge, through a screen? Seeking out a sunny spot to sleep on the grass, rather than on my living room carpet? Climbing trees instead of bureaus? Would a shorter life outside have meant a more satisfying life for the cats, even with the risk of an early and perhaps violent end? Do I have the right to make this decision for them? These are the questions that nip at the edges of my mind now as I watch his decline. I think about these things, as I run my hand down his back and feel the vertebrae, now prominent, as the muscles and fat melt away from his bony frame.

I wanted him to be safe and sound, and that was the life I created for him, but he had no say in any of it. I wonder whether he resents me for keeping him a prisoner inside, even though my intentions were good. I believe I made the right decision. He has enjoyed a long life. I wonder whether he would say he has had a good life.
I sure hope so.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Update on Emery-Sunrise

I want to let my readers know that Emery, the little lady that I wrote about in an earlier post has made some recent progress.

At the urging of several friends and aquaintances, she sought out a new doctor, who has assured her that he has options for dealing with her serious health problems. She has agreed to more tests to determine if she is a candidate for some new treatments that he has in mind for her.

She is faithfully wearing the scapular necklace that I gave her every day. In accordance with my instruction that it will only be effective if worn with total confidence of its healing powers, she has stopped agonizing out loud over her problems, and is making a strong effort to smile, breathe deeply and even laugh more than usual.

I watch her catch herself as she begins to think about saying something negative; she takes a deep breath, presses her lips together tightly, and smiles with determination.

She is reading a book today that another friend recommended. It's titled: Being Happy.

"It's a really good book!" she told me, with enthusiasm.

Things seem to be looking up for Emery. I think it is because she is now looking up.

photo courtesy of J. Choate, 2008

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Seasons turning

Well, it is mud season here in the great Northeast of the U.S.A. Winter's back is finally broken and we have tumbled into the rainy, raw month of March.

Last week when Mac, Rigby and I went for a late afternoon walk, we turned a corner and were confronted by a squadron of about a hundred blackbirds filling a dormant maple tree, squawking and jockeying for position on the bare branches. A little further on, another dark cloud of them, mostly Grackles, descended on the neighborhood. They are dark and mostly non-descript, while some sport pale, yellow eyes or deeply wedged, boat-tails. They are suddenly everywhere. The Swallows may not be returning to Capistrano with such faithful resolve, but the grackles have not let us down.

Now it is getting difficult to find the Juncos, the little slate-colored birds with the snow-white bellies that ply the ground under the hedgerows and patrol the weedy margins of the yard. Some folks call them "Snowbirds" because they seem to follow the cold. I saw one yesterday, all alone, looking as if he he was trying to find a flock to fly north with, now that these clacking, squeaky invaders had landed.

A big storm rolled up the east coast on Friday and had been soaking us with waves of cold rain all this weekend. Last night, gales buffeted the trees and rooftops throughout the night, and the Charles river has come up out of its banks today. Despite the seemingly nasty weather, I can feel the gray blanket of my seasonal depression lifting off my shoulders and something like enthusiasm for life budding inside me at my core. I feel like I am waking up from a soul coma. This evening's twilight will be the longest coming since last fall when we moved the clocks back. Last night the time sprung ahead again, and I almost forgot about it. I remembered just in time to avoid missing Mass this morning.

This afternoon, Mac came into the kitchen where I was concocting a savory stew for dinner, and announced that there was a Cardinal out on the top of the sycamore tree in the side yard, "...singing his brain out."
He wondered out loud why the bird seemed so happy, considering the weather we are enduring this weekend.

"It's because he knows that the best weather is coming now!" I said to him, as I dropped a handful of celery into the pot.
That bird knows the winter is over and he's full of joy because of it; So am I!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Frail fairy

There is a woman I know who was a puzzle to me, until now. The first time that I ever saw her, I wondered at the way she approached me, tentatively, almost as if she was afraid. As she came toward me across the room, I was struck by her appearance. She was like a little bird, maybe four and a half feet tall, a delicate being with wispy hair, large moist eyes and a drawn face. Weighing about ninety pounds, she was trembling as she came closer to me that day that we first met. She made me think of a little fairy woman, fresh from some Celtic glade, leary of contact with mortals.

At first, I was impatient with her skittishness and lack of confidence. It took me some time to realize that Emery lives in dread. Emery is a prisoner of worry, anguish and despair, and drags those chains around with her every day of her life. She doesn't sleep much, although she is very tired most of the time and she is plagued by phobias. Finally, I've learned why.

See, Emery has been damaged. When she was born, she was frail and suffered from birth defects that required many surgeries and much isolation. Her family let her know that she was a burden on them. Her siblings resented the attention she got because of her physical limitations and hospitalizations. Her mother let her know she was a big disappointment and would never measure up to the other kids. Most horrifying of all, a trusted family member molested Emery when she was seven. She was a precious little child, sick, and nobody protected her. Everyone failed her.

Those who failed Emery aren't suffering now. None of them are are in prison paying for the things they did to her. They don't seem to be burdened with guilt for the way they treated her. In fact, her parents are dead now and those relatives who are still alive have abandoned her, and seem not to give her a second thought. They live in well-heeled comfort, while Emery struggles to make ends meet. They gather at family parties and enjoy each other's company while Emery sits with her little cat and cries on Christmas Day and Easter. They try not to think about her, because she's out of their lives, now that they have homes of their own and new families.

She's angry - very, very angry. Deep inside, her anger has started to fester, and now Emery has more problems with her health. Her stomach aches, her arteries are closing up, she has dozens of symptoms that defy explanation. She is terrified of dying young. Her eyes leak constantly, sometimes because she cannot help crying and sometimes, just because. She always clutches a tissue because of it.

Emery has been to counselors, but they don't help much, asking her how her week was and giving her the bill. Maybe she should find a new one, I suggest. Her doctor said there is nothing more that can be done for her serious health problems. Maybe she should get another doctor, I offer.

Now that I know Emery's secret, I am dedicating a little time each day to try to pull her toward the light. I tell her that a terrible past need not ruin a bright future. I tell her to breathe deeply and to eat. I tell her that she must realize that despite what she has been led to believe, she did nothing to deserve the terrible treatment of her childhood, and that she needs to let go of it, if it is ever to let go of her. I say that the past is gone, and she will only continue to be a victim if she accepts that role.

I bought her a blessed necklace to wear, and I ask her to have faith instead of letting worry consume her; I know that faith and confidence can heal her, and worry is the opposite of faith. I tell her to try to let go of her anger, because the ones who hurt her can't feel the pain of her wrath, but she can, and it's truly only hurting her more. I try to say things that will make her laugh.

It is up to Emery now to choose to reject her ugly past and resolve to be happy, despite all that has happened to her. I hope she can rise above it and find some joy in her life.

What devastation we humans can wreak on one another.

God, help me to be extra kind each day, because everyone I meet is fighting some kind of battle.