Monthly Archives: September 2011

Has Anyone Seen the Fitness Fairy?

Yesterday afternoon I worked on reformatting the story to my children’s book “Donald and the New Baby.”  It had to be re-submitted to the editor in a format that they can manipulate to strategically design the lay-out and the final number of pages that the book will contain.  

They sent me a link to their special web-page, which helped take me through the entire reformatting process.  It wasn’t bad at all.  Of course, I don’t want to think about it having to be done with 500-plus pages of “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story)” when it gets that far.

I enclosed a small dedication and I am waiting to see if a photo of Sharon Rose and me (circa 1970 – as Donald and the New Baby) may be able to grace the back cover.  I thought it might be fun for kids to see the real-life characters.  Of course while going through the photos, I hadn’t realized that I was the original Justin Bieber decades before the “pop fenom” ever emerged.  LOL… What can I say?  It was the 70’s and I was young.

I think the bigger issue I have on my hands is, how to rid myself of 40 extra (and very unwanted) pounds before a book tour in the spring?

Don’t hate me, but I’ve never had to lose weight before.  Until recent illness has left me unable to exercise or exert myself, I was one of those people who could eat anything and everything without gaining an ounce.  In my entire adult life, standing at 6’1” I’ve never been more than 177 pounds (and that was my “heavy” weight) usually weighing in at 170.  Now I am topping the scale at 210!  Yikes… how did it get away from me so easily?

So I guess what I really want to know is… Shy of getting liposuction or gastric bypass, does anyone out there know the secret to losing 30-35 pounds in six months?  Oh yeah, one more thing; I’d like it to be done without dieting too!  What can I say?  I still want to believe in magic, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and… the Fitness Fairy.  Just tell me that she exists and if you’re a good little boy (or old man) she will wave her magic wand over you as you sleep, so you can wake up in the morning, slim, trim and fit.  Oh what the heck, as long as we’re dreaming; why not also 20 years younger with a full head of hair?

I know, I know… the fact of the matter is, although my nerve damage and bone density may cause me pain, I suppose I can still do low impact activities like bike riding.   After all when I think about it, I’m going to hurt even if I were to lie in bed, so why not hurt while getting my circulation pumping and my weight down?

{{{SIGH}}}  Life was so much easier back in the “Donald and the New Baby” days.

Possible back-cover photo option. What do you think?

 

Until next time,

Don

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Okay, Okay… Here’s the Aunt Lucy Cake Recipe!

Okay folks as promised, here is the illusive “Aunt Lucy Cake” recipe.  I told you that I would post it by the end of the week.  I have never received so many emails in my life!   Thanks for being patient (well sort of… LOL!)

I hope that you all enjoy it as much as my family and friends have.  It’s a perfect easy-peasy cake and the ingredients are always on hand.  I did my part by posting, now it’s up to you to let me know what you thought of it!  

Aunt Lucy Cake:

Ingredients 

(2) sticks margarine –softened (Butter does now work as well and you actually DON’T taste it.

(2) cups sugar

(4) Lg. eggs (room temp.)

(2) teaspoons pure vanilla extract

(3) cups flour

(4) teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

(1) cup milk (Room temp.)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together in mixing bowl.  (If crumbly don’t worry, eggs will take care of that!)  Add the eggs, one at a time, just until mixed.   Do NOT over beat.  Add vanilla and beat until blended.

In medium size bowl, stir together flour, powder and salt.

Alternately, add flour mixture and milk to butter/egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour (mixing after each addition).  If batter separates after milk is added don’t worry, it will come together again once all of the flour is incorporated.  Again, do not over beat – mix only until ingredients are evenly incorporated into the batter. 

Grease and flour a 10” tube pan and pour batter into it.

Note: Batter will be thick.  Place into center of oven and bake for about 60 minutes  until cake tester comes out clean.  (test in about 50, as ovens vary).  Cool on wire rack and remove from panLet cool completely and liberally dust top with powdered sugar.  Cake taste best when allowed to sit for a few hours or overnight. Use a serrated knife and a sawing motion when cutting.

Aunt Lucy with her Famous Cake

While we’re on the subject of my posted recipes; I would love to share this photo with you from a reader/fan/dear friend.  It’s in regards to Trudy’s Baked Mac from the “Accidental Recipe for Success” blog that I ran about a week and a half ago.  It arrived via email with the caption “Not even enough left over for lunch!”

Until next time,

Don

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Donald and the New Baby… The Countdown Begins!

Click here for the background music to this story:  Please Dont Eat The Daisies

The last of my contract is finally signed, sealed and delivered.  My children’s book “Donald and the New Baby” is about to become a reality! 

The overnight deliveries have been flying back and forth.  I have signed and or initialed the last 21 pages of documents that will now truly get the publishing process started.  I have not only signed off on printed copies, but also e-books, audio books and even ancillary items, i.e. tee shirts, music CD’s, bookmarks etc. to be designed around my story, should I ever be that lucky! 

My publisher is now going to put my story in the hands of a few illustrators so we can collectively decide on the best fit for my book.  It is indeed a very exciting time for me.  I can hardly wait to see a few artists’ interpretations of my characters. 

I have already been contacted by two different teachers that are interested in having me come to present my book to their school once it is out in print. 

My new acquisitions editor, Noel is an absolute doll.  We had a wonderful phone conversation today and I am more amped than ever about “Donald and the New Baby.”  Noel told me that the publisher is excited about the story for many reasons.  They like that it was written in honor of my sister and recalls the true-life account of her birth and our childhood together.  They like that the story has a good message and most of all; they think that the book is very marketable.  Let’s face it, when a publisher decides to publish your book, they need to know that it will make money for them.  As wonderful as it would be to simply publish stories out of kindness, they would soon find themselves bankrupt!  

Noel followed-up our phone conversation with an email that has left me inspired!

The following is a direct cut and paste from Noel’s follow-up email:

“Donald, You are such a gem! I loved talking to you and can tell you have the “IT” factor that it takes to get this book moving and shaking!!”  She than added, “I’m soooo excited about your blog!! Email me the link. Also be sure to post it on our www.facebook.com/tatepublishing page!!”

So I am moving forward with a company that seems to be as excited about my book project as I am, and that is a really good feeling. 

I’ll keep you all posted on the progress, and who knows?  Maybe I can even share with you an illustration rendering… if it is allowed. 

The Real-Life Donald and the New Baby AKA Sharon Rose

Until next time,

Don

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An Open Letter to My Sisters

Today I came upon an open letter that I had written to my sisters about a year ago.  In lieu of my traditional blog, I hope you will indulge me by excusing my behavior whilst I wear my heart on my sleeve by posting the letter (so full of raw feelings) here in honor of my special family.  I thank you all in advance.

My 1970’s

To me the 1970’s will forever be the happiest decade of my life.  The radio airways were filled with cheery, innocent pop tunes, that made the perfect soundtrack for the happy, innocent, if not downright puritanical, teenage life that I led. 

As the only brother of five children, I was totally devoted to my parents and sisters.  In my world, I had the most beautiful and perfect mother.  With her hair always done, make-up applied and smartly dressed, she kept a lovely decorated, neat-as-a-pin, home and cooked the best food I have ever tasted!  She was funny, loving and very cool.  What more could a teenage boy hope for?  I had a father who adored his family, worked hard to get us all that he could (sometimes holding down three jobs to do so) and still managed to teach us respect for people, places, things and ourselves. 

Then there were my sisters, all four of them!  Now I know that you may think that the only boy surrounded by four girls every day of his life, would have longed for a brother.  One might think that the girls might have even formed a special “sister bond” leaving me to feel a bit left out or isolated.  Well nothing could be further from the truth.  You see, I was so proud of my sisters and my heart overflowed with love for each and every one of them.  So much so, that they became the source of joyful memories that would forever help me through the roughest times in my life. 

Maureen, my only older sister, was a knockout beauty who was smart, funny and always seemed to have the best advice whenever I found myself in need of it.  She and I had been through an awful lot together and we knew that come what may, we would always be there for each other.  She had the honor (or the burden) of being all the firsts.  She was the first to graduate and get a job, first to get married, have a baby and buy a house.  She was beautiful, excelled in school, made friends easily and all in all, was a very tuff act to follow.  However, I was too busy being proud of her to realize it. 

The remaining three were all younger… much younger and I felt protective, proud, and most of all, responsible to do all that I could to create happy memories and show them the best time any big brother could. 

You see earlier on, before the three younger sisters were born, I lost my only brother to teenage suicide.  The mark that his death left on our family was astounding.  This tragic and senseless death came only two years after Maureen and I helplessly stood by and watched as our thirty-nine year old father suddenly died of a massive heart attack in our mother’s arms.  

If there could be a sliver lining to a cloud so dark, it was that I knew that my family was the most important thing in my life.  I wanted my sisters to always be aware of how much I loved them and hoped to protect them from the pain that my older sister and I had gone through. 

Putting tragedy behind us, my mom eventually remarried to the man I call my father and their love created three beautiful girls who are anything but HALF sisters.  The best way to describe our “unusually functional” family would be “Leave It to Beaver” meets “The Brady Bunch!”  In our house there was no swearing, no sibling rivalry of any kind and hardly any arguments (well, at least in MY recall!)  We always shared with each other because it was “the right thing to do” and were all totally supportive of one another. 

While other guys my age were involved in sports, dating, and partaking in that great American teenage pastime, “hanging out”, I was content to “hang out” with my family.  

I was happy to help my mom around the house and I actually had the joy of teaching two of my younger three sisters to walk.  I taught them all to ride a bike, jump rope and swim.  I was there each year for their first day of school; I picked them up from religious instruction class and I made sure that each of them had their own special time with their big brother.  

Weekends were spent taking them on day trips to Oakland Lake or picnics at Alley Pond Park.  There were afternoons at the movies, and in the winter, probably our favorite pastime of all; holiday sightseeing at the local florist where Santa would set up a full workshop and hot chocolate flowed freely!  I would try to buy a Christmas decoration that we could all enjoy for the holiday season and a small gift for my mom that would be from all of us kids. 

The amount of joy that these small, inexpensive items gave could not have been any greater if they had cost millions.  To this day, our Christmas would not be the same without hearing songs from a one-dollar record album that I purchased from a wire display stand.  I Want An Elephant For Christmas It immediately brings to mind bundling up my sisters in their warmest jackets complete with scarf & mittens for the long trek to Kiel Brothers florist.  We would laugh and sing all the way there, and I always had my trusty camera in my pocket! 

What guy anywhere was as lucky as me?  I felt as thought I had the world on a string and thought that these moments would last forever.  Sadly, time slips by quickly and the present becomes the past all too soon.  However, one of the best gifts that God gave mankind was the ability to hold memories in our minds and hearts forever.  My heart is chock-full with the most beautiful memories of wonderful times and I will feel forever blessed because of them. 

Here’s to my sisters, Maureen, Janice, Theresa and Sharon!  Thank you all for filling my heart with more joy then most others will ever know in their lifetime.

I love you all more then any words I can possibly pen onto these pages could ever express. 

Your brother…

Don

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Crazy for Cake

Today is my cousin’s birthday (Happy B-day Sue!) and via Facebook, my other cousin (Marcia) wished her sister a happy birthday.  She then added that if they were together, instead of across the country from one another, she would have made Sue her new favorite cake “Cream Soda Cake with Brown Butter Frosting.”  Now am I alone in thinking that, that cake sounds incredible?   I commented on the post that I would love to have that recipe. 

It then started me wondering, when (if ever) do we have enough cake recipes in our arsenal?  I think I have been collecting and perfecting cake recipes for at least thirty-five years now.  It all started with my Aunt Lucy’s famous pound cake.  It’s really more of heavy/dense yellow cake, baked in a ten inch tube pan, than a traditional pound cake.  Aunt Lucy became famous among our family for the cake because it was a given that anytime she visited, she would bring the pound cake to our house.  It was also a given that if you visited her, she would miraculously have one on hand. 

Everyone adored the simple cake.  It was not too sweet and was ideal with a cup of coffee.  The thing was, in spite of the fact that everyone liked the cake so much, no one ever asked her for the recipe.  

Well once I grew up and went off on my own, I would write letters every so often to my relatives.  It was how we kept in touch before the years of email and Facebook.  In one of my letters to Aunt Lucy, I asked her for the cake recipe.  She was both flattered and delighted to share her old recipe with me.  After a while, I too became famous for the cake, which I aptly dubbed, “Aunt Lucy Cake,” and my friends could not seem to get enough of it.  

I remember one Thanksgiving Day in particular about twenty years ago.  I was reading from a list of items that I would be serving at our Thanksgiving celebration.  After reading the nine different desserts and cakes I planned to prepare, my friends frowned and asked why I was not planning on an Aunt Lucy Cake?  “Because,” I replied, “I make that cake so often.  I am already making nine other cakes, pies and desserts.”  Their answer to me was, “What kind of a holiday would it be without an Aunt Lucy cake?” 

It was then that I realized that my friends counted on that cake when we got together just as my family had counted on Aunt Lucy bringing it to us.  I was almost “obligated” to bake the pound cake.  To this very day, it is the annual Christmas gift at my doctor’s office, my bank, my post office and for a few select friends.   It is also my “welcome wagon” gift when new neighbors move into town.  

Aunt Lucy is no longer with us, but I can’t help but think of her each and every time I bake the pound cake.  I remember how happy she was when I told her how much my friends appreciated her delectable cake and how she would giggle when I told her that the confection was named after her; making her famous amongst dozens and dozens of people in several different states that she had never even met. 

I guess we all have our favorite cakes that we hope will be a part of our birthday celebration each year.  I know my dad loves what he calls strawberry shortcake, which in reality is really four layers of yellow cake, filled with fresh strawberries and just enough preserves to hold them together, that is then frosted with clouds of my whipped-cream frosting.  

My sister Janice’s favorite is also yellow cake, but she prefers it with chocolate custard filling and a deep chocolate fudge frosting.  

For my older sister Maureen, it is my moist chocolate cake with an ever-so-thin filling of ganache, covered with oodles of delicate whipped-cream frosting.  We call it the Devil Dog cake because its taste reminds us of the Drake’s cake of the same name from our childhood. 

For me, I guess it will always be “Aunt Lucy Cake.”  It not only touches my taste buds, but it also touches my heart.  

Until next time,

Don

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Endless Pasta-bilities:

Well it’s almost midnight and I finally have a moment of quiet time to sit down and collect my thoughts. 

It was a wonderful Saturday, not quite what I expected, but none the less very pleasant.

My partner James and I had recently purchased a pasta making machine.  We bought it while we were up in Orlando on business.  We certainly didn’t have such an odd purchase in our plan, but the price was too good to pass up.  We both enjoy cooking and thought that having all the family over for some homemade pasta could be a fun way to fill a weekend afternoon.  

I placed calls to all the family (well everyone that lives down here in Florida).  As luck would have it, I was unable to personally speak with anyone, save for James’ father, so I left messages. 

To get a jump on things we set the dining room table the night before.  Hahaha… our FIRST mistake! 

The first person to call back was my dad.  He confirmed that would be joining us.  I asked if my sister Maureen and her new husband Ralph (who are temporarily living with my father, while Ralph relocates from North Carolina) would be able to come as well.  Dad couldn’t answer for them but assured me that he would pass on the message and have my sister get back to me. 

My next call-back was from my sister Janice.  She said that she too would love to come but didn’t know if her husband, Dave would be able to make it, as she didn’t know what his weekend work schedule was yet.  She did however give me a heads-up that Ralph, who had started a new job, would not be able to join us because he works on Saturdays.  So I removed a place setting from the table.    

Later Maureen called and not only confirmed that Ralph couldn’t make it, but neither could she, due to a prior engagement.  So I removed another place setting from the table. 

A few hours later, Janice rang me up.  She said that she would still be happy to come to lunch but Dave definitely had to work and was unable to attend.  So I removed another place setting from the table.  Are you sensing a pattern here yet? 

Then this morning as I was baking a pumpkin cake for this afternoon’s dessert, Janice called again.  The poor girl sounded horrible as she explained that she had taken ill during the night and was unable to come to lunch.  So, you got it… I removed another place setting from the table.  

We now had 16 chicken breasts prepared al a cacciatore style to serve with our homemade pasta and only four of us left to partake of the feast!  

So finally one o’clock rolls around and our two dads arrive.  James and I start to prepare the homemade pasta.  The machine does a really nice job of mixing the ingredients and kneading the dough.  Then at last it begins to dispense the dough through the die for our fresh spaghetti.  The four of us were staring on in amazement, as right before our eyes actual pasta noodles began to emerge from the machine.  However the dough got no further than about an inch and a half out of the dispenser before the motor burned out and our new machine quite unceremoniously, died. 

It was beginning to feel as if a force greater than us, did not want this meal to happen. 

Now we could have become discouraged and given up on the whole process (after all, we did have a large bowl of noodles prepared and waiting in the fridge in case of a pasta disaster) but we did not let it get us down.  After a good laugh about the quality of our newly purchased macaroni marvel, we realized that our Kitchen-Aid mixer had a pasta attachment.  We plugged in the mixer and in no time at all, we were knee deep in fresh fettucini.  So we threw a few bucks down the drain buying some dumb device that we apparently already owned.  I never claimed to be smart, just a good cook.  The good news is… the food was outrageous!  Lucky thing too, as we’ll be eating it for the next three days! 

Until next time,

Don

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Excerpt from Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story)

In honor of my dear brother’s birthday, I have decided to post an excerpt from my book that chronicles the day he was born.

Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story) 

Copyright Ó 2011 by Donald Philip Massetti 

All rights reserved.  No part of this book or blog may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. 

This is a novel based on the true-life events of Gertrude Abate. 

Aside from immediate family, names have been changed to protect the privacy and the rights of all other individuals. 

 

Saturday, September 8, 1947

Mario was sitting at the kitchen table sipping from a cold bottle of 7-Up in a futile attempt to stay cool as he looked over at Trudy.  He couldn’t help but smile to himself as he took in the roundness of his pretty young wife.  She was nine months pregnant, in fact, past her delivery date and in the past few weeks; her normally tiny waist had swollen so large that it even separated the pleats in her maternity tops!  He knew that she must be uncomfortable.  Although August had ended and they were already a week into September, you would never have known it by the temperature.  Even at this morning hour, the summer heat was oppressively strong and there was surely no relief to be found in their tiny basement apartment.  

Mario took his handkerchief out from his pocket and wiped the sweat from the back of his neck.  He was just about to complain about the heat when he caught himself in time.  No, if Trudy wasn’t complaining about it then he sure as heck had no right to do so.   He wondered how he got so lucky.  He watched his wife as she sat in her chair reading the paper.  He admired the way she would read the paper from cover to cover each and every day.  He loved watching his “cotton top.”  He remembered the very first time he had cast his eyes upon her from the barber’s chair.  Mario watched as Trudy touched her finger to her tongue to aid in turning the page.  He noticed that she suddenly frowned for a moment placing her hand on her stomach.  Before he could ask if everything were all right, her frown was gone and she returned to her reading. 

“Whew, that was close” he thought.  Still he knew that the baby would be coming at any time now and he was prepared for it.  Trudy had packed a small bag to bring to the hospital and Mario kept it right next to the front door so that he could quickly grab it on their way out.  He kept taxi fare in his pocket at all times so when the moment came, the couple would not have to think about anything but getting to the hospital. 

Instinctively, Mario looked over at the door to make sure the bag was still there.  He was relieved to see that it was.  From the corner of his eye he thought he saw Trudy frown again but when he turned his head to look at her, she was reading the paper once more.  Then it happened once again.  This time however, Trudy clearly became alert and before Mario could get the words out, Trudy made the announcement that she believed the baby was ready.  

In a flash Mario was up on his feet and at Trudy’s side.  He took her by the arm and grabbing the little suitcase with his other hand; he helped his wife out the door. 

Out on the street, Mario hailed a cab in record time and before they knew it, the couple was walking through the emergency room doors of the hospital. 

Trudy was taken away in a wheelchair while Mario gave the nurse at the desk the information that she needed before banishing him to the “new daddies” waiting room. 

Mario sat in the waiting room talking to other dads.  One by one they each received news about their new baby while Mario heard nothing about his wife.  A whole new group of dads had come into the waiting room and their babies also came, while still no news about Trudy. 

“It’s like that sometimes sir” a busy nurse told him.  “I know your anxious, but try to relax.  Every woman is different and it takes longer for some than others, especially if it’s their first baby.  If something were wrong, they would let you know.  Now you just sit down and we’ll come get you as soon as she delivers.” 

Mario looked at the door as it closed behind the nurse.  He couldn’t help wondering what exactly was going on for poor Trudy while he was trapped here waiting? 

The doctor examined Trudy for the fourth time.  “I’m sorry Mrs. Massetti but your still not dilated enough yet” he said apologetically. 

“For Heaven’s sake doctor, I’ve been here for hours; more than half a day.  Why aren’t I dilating if the contractions are so strong?” Trudy asked through her exhaustion. 

“We’re going to need you to keep walking.  It’ll help get things moving and bring the baby on,” said the young doctor. 

The fact was that Trudy had been walking.  She didn’t know how many miles she had already covered, walking up and down those hospital corridors for hours, while doubled over with painful contractions. 

Trying to sound encouraging, the doctor continued, “I’m really sorry and I know you’re exhausted but it is very necessary for you to keep walking.  It’s the only thing you can do to help yourself along right now.” 

Two nurses helped Trudy to stand, and back out into the hall she went in the hopes of having this baby soon.  The heat and humidity were stifling.  She tried not to look at the clock.  Watching the time only made it worse.  As she held onto the wall for balance, Trudy saw another young mother.  Without enough strength to stand any longer, this poor woman was crawling on the floor!  As Trudy came by, their eyes met and for a moment they felt each other’s pain.  They looked at each other as if to say, I understand and I am with you my sister. Trudy silently sent a prayer out for the other women and continued to walk.  As she did, she overheard two nurses talking.  One was telling the other about a crazy hat a woman had worn to church that morning and that’s when Trudy realized that it was not even Saturday any longer.  It was now Sunday… Sunday afternoon! 

Finally, thirty-six hours after they arrived at the hospital, a nurse came through the door with news for Mario.  

“Congratulations Mr. Massetti,” the nurse beamed, “You have a baby boy.  A perfect baby boy that weighed in at eleven pounds!  No wonder it took so long” she said as she instructed Mario to go to the nursery window to see his son.  “As soon as we get your misses comfortable and into a room, you can go see her as well.” 

Mario ran to the nursery to see his new son.  The nurse held the baby up to the window so Mario could have a better look.  He was a beautiful baby, perfect in every way.  Next to all the other newborns that surrounded him, baby Massetti looked like he was a couple of months old already.  He had rosy cheeks and a mop of curly hair.  Mario decided that he looked like Trudy. 

Still waiting for the okay to go see his wife, Mario went over to the pay phone by the waiting room and called his father with the news.  Papa was ecstatic.  It was his first grandchild!  A boy… and such a big healthy one too!  

He told his son that he would call the others and will head on down to the hospital to see his new grandson.  He should be there in less than thirty minutes. 

Placing the receiver back onto the phone, Mario swallowed hard and took a deep breath.  He knew what he had to do.  He lifted the receiver once more, dropped in another dime and began to dial. 

After four rings Lily’s voice answered on the other end. 

“Hello” she said. 

Mario took another deep breath and as he did an impatient Lily continued to speak. “Hello.  Is anyone there?  Who is this?” she demanded in her own inimitable yet ornery way. 

“It’s Mario” he finally said.  “I’m calling to let you know that Trudy just had a baby.  A boy… Eleven pounds and beautiful!” 

“Oh, did she?” Lily responded without an ounce of emotion.  “Eunice had a baby too,  just about a year ago, a girl!” she continued. 

“I know,” Mario replied.  “We’ve been over to see her quite a few times already.  Susan is beautiful.  Now you have two grandchildren… a girl AND a boy!” 

“Yes, I suppose we do” was all Lily said before an awkward silence fell over the line.  Then she simply muttered, “Well, thank you for your call” and before Mario could say another word, she hung up! 

“Bitter old crone!” Mario thought out loud.  He could not figure out why in the world the old woman hated him so, but the truth was, he really didn’t care what she thought of him.  It did however hurt him to think how disappointed Trudy would be.  He knew that she was hoping that her new baby would change everything.  That the old woman would soften up and come around; but no such luck.  She was still as hard as nails. 

Papa came rushing through the main entrance of the hospital holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  He asked to be directed to the maternity ward where he went to see his new grandson.  As the nurse held the baby boy up to the window, Papa felt a tear escape his eye.  He was so proud and overcome with joy.  He wished that his dear wife Carmina had lived to share in the joy of this moment with him. 

Mario was sitting at the foot of Trudy’s bed as Papa walked into the room.

He went directly over to Trudy, kissed her cheek, handed her the flowers and simply said, “Thank you.” 

He was beaming with pride and both Trudy and Mario could clearly see that this was one of the happiest days of Papa’s life. 

“What a beautiful baby” he said through his grin, “He’s so big.  He already looks like a three month old!  Trudy, eleven pounds?  Momma mia!  That’s so unusual for a baby to be born that big.  Most babies are about seven pounds.  You’re such a tiny woman, how did you make such a big baby?” 

“Yes Papa, I know,” Trudy answered.  “All the nurses are talking about the eleven pound baby.” 

“I have had nine children of my own and not one, not even this one over here, was eleven pounds!” he laughed as he slapped his son on the back.  “So, what did you decide to name him?” 

“Daniel,” Trudy said, “Daniel John.  Do you like that name Papa?” 

“A beautiful name for my beautiful grandson!” he replied. 

Just then the nurse came through the door with baby Daniel.  

“I have someone here who wants to see his mamma,” said the nurse.  “And his daddy and grandpa too” she added with a big grin. 

Trudy held her son.  She had never known a feeling so wonderful.  Suddenly thirty-six hours of labor seemed a small price to pay for such a precious gift. 

Seeing his daughter-in-law hold her new son caused Papa to become overwhelmed with emotion.  This was truly one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen and he had not been this happy since the day his own first son was born.  He put his arm around Mario and said, “Look son.  Here we are… three generations of first born Massetti sons!” 

Then it dawned on him.  “Trudy,” he asked, “Where’s your parents?” 

“Oh, I don’t think they’ll be coming Papa” she answered.  Trying to hide her pain she continued, “Maybe they’ll come by the apartment in a week or so to see the baby.” 

Papa looked perplexed.  He could not understand what could possibly keep Trudy’s mother and father away at a moment like this.  He himself loved Trudy like one of his own children.  Over the past five years he had watched her grow-up right before his eyes.  From the school girl friend that his daughter brought home to the young lady his son started to date, to the women who became his son’s wife and now the mother of his grandchild. 

She was always happy, smiling, thoughtful and loving.  She did not deserve this kind of treatment from her parents.  Papa could sense the pain that his question may have stirred-up.  He had wished that he could take back the last two minutes but it was too late.  He touched Trudy’s cheek with his fingertips and said, “I am so proud of you and the woman that you have become.  You are a gift to my family.” 

* * * * * * * * * * *

Until next time,

Don

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One in the Hopper!

Well contracts are signed and have been mailed back to my publisher.  I guess it’s official.  I AM an author!  Well of a children’s book anyway.  “Donald and the New Baby” is going to be released sometime this spring and will be available at Barns and Nobel, Borders, Amazon dot com and Christian bookstores throughout the nation. 

It’s hard to believe that my baby sister Sharon is now 40 plus years old.  I wrote this little story as a fortieth birthday gift for her.  It was done as a children’s book so that she could share the story with her two youngsters.  It follows the true-life account of a big brother (me) awaiting the birth of his mother’s new baby.  With three sisters already under his belt, he is sure that a brother is at long last due.  He dreams about all the wonderful things that he can do with a new little brother, but learns a valuable life lesson in the end. 

My intention was always to try and get the story published, but I never expected for it to be pick-up by the first publisher I tried.  I remembered that my research had revealed that this publishing house only accepted about 2% out of all of the thousands of manuscripts sent to them each month.  I know it was a long shot, but figured that I had nothing to lose.  I sent the story in and waited for what I was sure would be a very polite rejection letter.  After all, this was the first material I had ever tried to publish.  Receiving an email that started with the word “congratulations” was a very exciting moment in my life.  I couldn’t wait to call my sister Sharon back in New York and share the good news with her. 

I guess it only goes to show, that if you don’t ever try to follow your dream, then you have no chance of actually having “a dream come true!”  

Until next time,

Don

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Home for Lunch

Today’s blog is to address some emails that I am receiving regarding the following questions (1) Where did I gather so much knowledge about my mother’s past/youth for my book? (2) Do I have another quick and easy recipe? (3) Do I have a story strictly about mother and son.

I hope this answers those questions adequately… 

One of the secrets that I have always shared with my mother is that out of all six of her children, I was the only one who was allowed to come home from school for lunch. 

Each weekday at 12:00 noon as I was released from school, I would run with the speed of a cheetah, down the block-long hill, through the ally and across the street to our garden apartment, ready for whatever surprise lunch my mom had waiting for me.  My two younger sisters, who were not of school age yet, played nicely in the yard or in their room until I returned to school and their lunch was then served.  

I always loved this special time of the day.  It was an hour of freedom that very few other kids in the neighborhood seemed to have.  It was also my very own one-on-one quality time with my mother.  Each day as I sat down at our country-style kitchen table, I would devour my mid-day meal as my mother regaled me with stories from her own childhood.  I would listen in amazement to endless tales from the price of a depression-day candy bar (five cents) to her favorite movie (Miracle of Morgan’s Creek Staring Betty Hutton as Gertrude AKA “Trudy” Kockenlocker).  I was encouraged to ask questions about pretty much anything that I wanted to know.  It was through these personal moments that I learned many of the stories that now fill my novel “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story).”  

I asked my mom how she had met my biological father Mario and of course, it was an exceptional story befitting a Harlequin Romance paperback!  I learned the birth stories of all of my siblings and loved the story of my birth the most!  Perhaps I was a tad bias, but it truly was a fun tale about an obnoxious doctor with a happy little victorious moment for my mom.  (It’s all in the book. Hahaha!) 

Each year as the seasons would change and the weather started to grow cold, mom would try to dissuade me from making the trip home for lunch.  In spite of her efforts, I would always nag until she gave in.  I was like am Olympic Sprinter as a kid, so it quite literally took me no more than three minutes to get home from Cloverdale School # 213. 

I’d arrive home quickly but chilled and mom would have some wonderful hot lunch waiting to be served to me.  It may have consisted of anything from the previous night’s leftovers to hotdogs, grilled cheese and tomato soup, hamburgers or my all-time favorite, Welsh rarebit. 

I adored the buttery, open-faced, grilled cheese on thick crusty bread.  It was a welcome treat on a wintery afternoon.  However because I claimed to “hate the smell of beer,” (I was a very dramatic child) my mom replaced the beer with either milk or broth in the thick, velvety, cheddar sauce.  

Trudy’s Welsh Rarebit for a Growing Boy: 

Ingredients: 

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

A pinch each of salt, Coleman’s dry mustard and white pepper

2 cups milk or chicken stock

A dash of Worcestershire sauce

2 cups shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese 

Instructions: 

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the flour to create a roux. Slowly add in the milk or stock while continuingly stirring.  Add salt, mustard, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Continue stirring the mixture for about 10 minutes, until thickened.  Remove from heat and add cheese, stirring to melt into the mixture. 

Serve immediately over thick slices of buttered toasted bread. 

How I long to return to the simple days of food without fear.  These days I have treats like this very rarely, as I like my arteries to remain open.  But when I do have them, I can still see my beautiful mother smiling across the table from me, laughing, singing and telling me a wealth of wonderful life stories. 

Until next time,

Don

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Side Effects May Include…

Sorry if this seems a little deep today but there is something on my mind. 

Okay, so I’m watching TV and this commercial comes on for Lyrica.  It is an FDA approved drug to treat fibromyalgia.  Now trust me, as a person who suffers from irreversible nerve damage, I totally empathize with anyone dealing with the agony of fibromyalgia.  However the first warning that they read off as a possible side effect, is “uncontrolled thoughts of suicide.”  Seriously?  Suicide?  For goodness sake, it’s not bad enough trying to  keep the façade of a cheery disposition going when having to cope with daily pain, now in their desperate quest for relief, a drug that makes some of those who take it, have the uncontrolled desire to kill them self is what the FDA deems a viable alternative?   What am I missing here? 

To better understand where I’m coming from, take a trip with me if you will, through my magic time tunnel.  The year is 1969 and the month is October.  My very hard working father is eking out a pretty good living with his Diet Rite Cola route.  At this time, Diet Rite is the bestselling diet soda available.  Coke may have been the undisputable king of the carbonated beverages, but Diet Rite had a market all its own.  The secret to the success was the sweetener Cyclamate.  It had been around in one form or another since about the mid to late 1930’s and for beverages, it offered a sugar-free alternative without the bitter aftertaste of saccharin. 

Suddenly, FDA scientist Jacqueline Verrett appeared on NBC’s Huntley/Brinkley Report to show the world deformed chicks that had been injected with huge amounts of Cyclamate. The photos horrified viewers and immediately filled everyone with doubt regarding the sweetener’s safety. 

It was only days later, Abbott Laboratories, the makers of Cyclamate, released another study finding.  A mere eight, out of two hundred and forty laboratory rats, that had been fed the equivalent of an astonishing three hundred and fifty cans of soda a day, developed bladder cancer. 

Now, one could argue that the rodents may have been from the same family.  They’re rats, how do we know how they were reproduced?  If they were from the same gene-pool perhaps bladder cancer may very well have simply been their destiny, just as cancer can run in the family of us humans.  If so, it could have had little to nothing to do with cyclamate.  But honestly people, daily feedings of 350 cans?  I would imagine even sugar would have caused some kind of damage in those doses.    

Ironically, the same lab rats were also fed both cyclamate and saccharine, yet for some unexplainable reason, it was solely cyclamate that took the blame.

So on October 18, 1969 the Food and Drug Administration reacted by placing a ban on the artificial sweetener.  Hardest hit by the sanction was the soft drink industry.  My dad eventually lost his shirt (i.e. his business) and found himself out of work while trying to support his family of five children. 

My awareness to this has been renewed, as I am currently working on a chapter of my book that deals with this particular time in our history.  

Nowadays, the sugar substitute of choice is aspartame AKA, “NutraSweet.”  Astonishingly, Aspartame was not approved until 1981, because the FDA had previously refused to approve it, due to seizures and brain tumors this chemical produced in lab animals.  That’s not even the worst of it, Methanol more commenly known as “wood alcohol,” (a deadly poison) seems to become a byproduct of the sweetener.  The absorption of methanol into the human body is considerably sped up when “free methanol” is ingested. Free methanol is created from Aspartame when it is heated above 86 degrees Fahrenheit.  Hmmm… last time I checked, wasn’t the average human body temperature 98.6?    

In the long run, Aspartame was approved anyway and is out in there in countless products from sugar-free ice-cream to soda to gelatin.  Go figure?  

Now, back to Lyrica.  It has been approved for use in humans because it may relieve your pain, or…

it may mess with your brain so much, that you will want to kill yourself.  

However cycalmate was banned because ridiculously high levels that could not be consumed naturally may or may not have effected 8 rats. 

{{{Sigh}}} All I want to know is, who is looking out for us consumers if we apparently cannot count on the FDA to have our back? 

Until next time,

Don

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