Monthly Archives: March 2012

How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

If I were to say that there was one disappointing thing in my life, I would have to admit that I had always wanted to be a dad.  I love children and really do have a way with them.  Over the years the wiser I’ve grown the better dad I knew I could have been.  However it was not in my cards and as it turns out, I have a partner that is “all the child” I can handle anyway.  And like a child, he has gotten it stuck in his craw lately that he wants to have a dog.  Day and night for months now, he has been trying to wear me down.   

James and I have been together for almost twenty-two years and up until now, in hypothetical scenarios where we only imagined the kind of dog we would want, should we decide to ever adopt a canine companion, we couldn’t agree on what to get.  I have always leaned towards larger, more solid dogs that I could romp around and play with, while James preferred the smaller, somewhat prissier breeds that I have always looked at as household décor for snooty rich ladies.  You know the type I mean; everything in the house is white including their little pup who is of course, adorned with a rhinestone collar and tiny silk hair ribbons at their ears. 

Not that there is anything wrong with a lapdog, it’s just that for my taste, I would want a dog that can jog on the beach along with me, fetching frisbees in flight while we both get much needed exercise together.  He would be strong and fit and not only would he be a trusted companion but also a great protector. 

Well like I said in the opening paragraph, James has really been relentless about wanting a dog.  Finally, I broke down and gave in, telling him that I only had two criteria for a dog in our household.  First and foremost, it MUST be a rescue dog.  Far too many dogs are being euthanized because shelters can’t handle the enormous overflow of abandoned animals and I would not take any part in supporting a puppy mill, breeding dogs for profit while thousands of loving pups are being put down because they can’t find a home.  The second thing was that James had to understand that this dog is something that HE wanted so it would be HIS responsibility through thick and thin, one hundred percent of the time.  Yeah right…  Enter Buddy! 

A local animal rescue house, just miles from our home, sent out an email that he was new to their shelter and needed a good home.  Buddy is a Schnouser mixed with [what we think might be] some sort of Terrier.  So much for my big playmate.  He’s approximately a year old and from the moment we went to see James’ possible pooch, he took to me like a stamp to a letter.  While James watched on, Buddy played with me, stayed at my side and rested his head in my lap.  We decided to take him home for the weekend and he is still acting as though I am his long lost mother, following me from room to room and sitting at my feet while I do my work.  In fact, as I type this blog, James is in his office on the phone while his dog lays inches away from my feet! 

Needless to say, we are keeping Buddy.  At least I hope that’s why we have just invested five hundred dollars in collars, toys, beds, travel cage, etc.  Oh and have I mentioned that Buddy has just returned home from the doggie spa where he received a much needed bath and haircut?  Of course, he also had a blueberry facial, massage and other spa treatments that even I have not experienced in years!  Can you say pampered pup? 

I guess I will just have to face it… Buddy will not be James’ dog but our dog.  This silly little bundle of fur has won my heart despite my best efforts at trying to remain in the background.  Oh who am I kidding… I love the lil’ guy!  Who do you think named him Buddy?  Why is it that babies, old ladies and animals love me so much?  Maybe the bigger question is why do I always love them? 

So here we are with our home just a little bit fuller now that Buddy is settling in.  He seems quite content as though he has lived here with us all his life.  I am proud to announce [although I don’t want to jinx it] that he has spent twelve days home with us and not one accident thus far!  I do hope it stays that way… because you know if it doesn’t, the very first mess to hit the floor, I will be calling for James to clean up after his dog!

 

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T Minus Ten and Counting:

I would like to thank everyone who’s been checking in with me to see how long it will be before my children’s book; “Donald and the New Baby” is available for purchase.

I am happy to report that the time is very near.  I have made final changes and approved my cover design.  My manuscript has entered a stage called “Layout & Initial Proof.”

Now that my illustrations are all finished and the cover is designed, my book goes into “layout.”  During this part of the process, they will take my manuscript and make it look like a book!  They’ll be integrating the illustrations with the text using fonts and other design elements to create a layout that mimics the look and feel of the cover and illustrations. I’ll be receiving an initial proof near the end of this month via e-mail.

After hearing back from me regarding the initial proof, they’ll be getting my final proof ready for my review.  Once I sign off on it, a back cover and spine will be created using the backmatter [tiny bio about the author with photo] that I have already approved with my editor.  This book is for very young children so the backmatter was kept simple and brief; about two lines.  The back cover will be designed to fit the visual aesthetic of the front cover.

My final proof will arrive (via US Mail) within the first two weeks of next month. This proof will look nearly identical to my final printed book. It will have the full cover, spine, and back cover bound with the text exactly as it will appear in the final books, and the color will be accurate. I’ll have one last opportunity to mark any final changes at that time. Once I sign the approval forms, my marketing representative will contact me to discuss promoting my book as it goes into print!

Looking forward to visiting a bookstore near you soon!

Until next time,

Don

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The End of an Era

Last Thursday my dear and wonderful Aunt Evelyn passed away.  She was ninety two years old.  Her passing marks the end of an entire generation of Abate women whether they were born to the name or married into it.

Aunt Ev, as we all called her, was truly one in a million.  I know that people throw that phrase around a lot but in this case, there really was no other like her.

I can still see her face light up with genuine joy when I lived in New York and I would pay her a surprise visit.  As I came into her view she would raise her hands high over her head and call out loudly, “Donald’s here!” as if announcing the arrival of the Pope.  Neighborhood woman seeing her utter joy would often ask, “Who is this Ev?”  With more pride than I can describe she would take my arm as she answered, “my nephew Donald… my brother Johnny’s son,” with almost indignation to their ignorance, as if I were some kind of celebrity that should have been recognized.

Aunt Ev was pure and unconditional love.  She had a heart that reached out to everyone.  No one would ever have known what a difficult and unfair life she had lived.  Mostly because she never felt sorry for herself and absolutely never talked about it.

As a young woman, Evelyn waited for love to come along like every other red-blooded American girl in the 1940’s.  One day, it did.  She met a man who paid her lots of attention and professed undying love for her.  In time, he proposed marriage.  Aunt Ev was totally smitten and happily agreed to become his wife even though the young man was out of work.  He wanted a big church wedding and Aunt Ev had enough money saved to do just that.  She looked stunning in her white ball gown and veil as she marched down the aisle on her father’s arm.

After the wedding, the couple moved in with grandma and grandpa while the fellow continued to look for employment.  Aunt Ev had a job and would kiss him goodbye each morning as she headed off to work.  In a short time, while still living in her parent’s home, Aunt Ev discovered that she had become pregnant.  She couldn’t have been any happier.  All that was missing was a job for her husband and she would have the perfect life.

Then one day she came home from work, to find the police at her door.  They were arresting her husband.  It seemed that he was a bigamist who was already married with a family in Ohio.  Aunt Ev of course, was devastated, the horrible shock even causing her to miscarry and lose her child.

To add insult to injury, The Catholic church would not annul her marriage.  It seemed that the man had only been wed by a justice of the peace in Ohio, but in New York had a church wedding to Aunt Ev.  As far as the church was concerned, the ONLY marriage they recognized was the vows he took with Aunt Ev.  So even though she was not LEAGALLY married by any state law, the church told her that she would be excommunicated should she ever remarry. 

My poor grandmother had even gone to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral to literally beg the bishop for help.  On her knees, she wrapped her arms around the man’s feet as she implored him to understand the situation and release her daughter from this sham wedding.  He merely shook her off his leg like a small dog and told her that this was Aunt Ev’s fate and God’s test for her life.  I only wish I had been alive to tell him that maybe it was HE who was being tested by God and failing greatly! I am sure that God weeped to see a representative of his church with no compassion for another human being, happily willing to destroy a life without even a second thought.  Obviously, the man never entered the marriage in good faith and was making a mockery of the church, the institution of marriage and my poor aunt.   Aunt Ev obeyed the church remaining alone her entire life.

As a devout Catholic and Christian minister myself, I feel she was given a raw deal by a man who was high on power that will one day have to answer to God for his actions.

Aunt Ev managed to pick up her life, devoting herself to all of us nephews and nieces bestowing her own special brand of love and nurturing on each and every one of us.  She was never embittered by her misfortune and seemed to instead count her blessing.

I remember her relaying a story to me many years ago.  It was close to Christmas back in the 1970’s.  Aunt Ev was riding a city bus home from work when she noticed a young Latin woman board the bus with several young children.  Clearly they were not dressed in warm enough clothing to protect them from the cold winter weather.  Aunt Ev eyed the other passengers on the bus.  It was obvious that they all were thinking what she was thinking but one by one she saw them all look away as if the young woman didn’t even exist.  Aunt Ev opened her handbag, gathering up the cash that she had in it and slipped the money into her coat pocket.

As the bus approached the low income projects, the mother rang the bell for the bus to stop as she gathered up her children.  Although it was not Aunt Ev’s stop, she too exited the bus.  Once off of the bus, Aunt Ev approached the woman.  “Merry Christmas misses!” she told her taking the cash from her pocket to place into the young mother’s hand.  The woman was surprised and touched but told Aunt Ev that she couldn’t accept her gift.  Evelyn told her that she had to put her pride aside and except this gift in the spirit that it was given for the sake of her children.  “God bless you,” the woman cried as she hugged Aunt Ev.

Now Aunt Ev was an older woman supporting herself by working long, hard hours doing piecework in a sweat shop.  She made little money and I know she didn’t really have any to simply give away.  However it was important for her to do what she could for this family even if she had to do with less herself to do so.  I had even asked her, didn’t you need that money?  She said, yes it would have made things easier, but I can get along without it and it made a bigger difference where it went.   That was simply who she was.

Her home was her little piece of heaven and she took great pride in it.  In time, she redecorated her tiny rail-road apartment mostly by making purchases using lay away plans.  Aunt Ev had bought some lovely furnishings.  Granted some were a little gaudy or a bit too large in scale of the apartment, but she knew that and wanted them anyway.  Aunt Ev worked hard for her money and if she wanted to be surrounded by what she felt were “pretty things” than she was entitled to that one luxury.  She made two sets of wall-to-wall draperies for her little bedroom.  One set for the fall/winter season and another for spring/summer.

One day her grandniece [our cousin Jenn] told Aunt Ev about a part she had in a play.  She was going to play the part of a resident of Emerald City in a production of The Wizard of Oz.  Calling upon Aunt Ev’s background as a seamstress, she asked if she would make her costume.  Before Jenn knew what happened, much like Scarlet O’Hara, Aunt Ev [now in her 80’s] had taken down her spring drapes [which were shades of green and white] and made my cousin the most beautiful gown, the likes of which overshadowed anything out of the MGM musical! 

When my aunt told me what she had done and showed me the photographs of the magnificent costume, I remember saying to her, “Its gorgeous Aunt Ev, but I thought you loved your beautiful drapes.”

Without missing a beat she responded, “you’re right, I do.  But I love Jenn more!”

That was my Aunt Ev…  Our Aunt Ev!  A woman who was a hopeless romantic, who routed for the underdog and always helped others when she could. 

She chain smoked unfiltered cigarettes for over 60 years until she got cancer.  Her reaction to the cancer?  She switched to cigarettes WITH filter tips!  “What?” she said mocking us for scolding her, “I’m 88 years old… I should quite now?”

She was all of 4’9”, 80 pounds soaking wet but she was a tough cookie who carried her own groceries up the stairs to her walk-up apartment.  When she was so ill and not doing well at all, I would call her to check in and chat and she would tell me she was fine.  I would tell her that I knew she way fibbing and I was well aware of her condition.  She’d laugh at me and say, “so what… I’m in my 90’s what am I gonna do?  Complain?” 

On a trip to New York, my sister took me into Brooklyn to visit our aunt.  We arrived there only to find that she had cooked for us.  In spite of her condition, Aunt Ev was happy in her element, presenting us with her world famous pasta, meatballs and sausage! 

I’ll miss that cooking, I’ll miss her love, I’ll miss her one-of-a-kind brand of humor, I’ll miss the way she sometimes misunderstood things but most of all… I’ll simply miss her. 

Aunt Ev is being laid to rest today.  She will be buried with my grandma and grandpa.  The world will forever be a different place without her.  However those who knew and loved her, will never forget her.  We will hold her in our hearts, keep dear the happy memories and find comfort knowing that when our time comes and the lord calls us home, Aunt Ev is among the many wonderful and loving people in our lives that will be waiting to great us.

God bless you Aunt Ev.  Thank you for a lifetime of love and laughter. R.I.P.

Love your nephew, Donald.  Your brother Johnny’s son! XO

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Happy Saint Patty’s Day!

Saint Patrick’s Day [The Festival of Saint Patrick] is a cultural and religious holiday that has been officially observed on March the 17th here in the USA since 1919, when the large influx of Irish immigrants made Saint Patrick’s Day a widely celebrated day for the Irish as well as the Irish at heart.   It is said that everyone is Irish on St. Patty’s Day.    

The day is usually acknowledged by the attendance of church services, the lifting of Lenten restrictions [regarding food and alcohol], parades down the main streets of towns and of course the wearing of green attire.  It is probably the most widely celebrated saints’ day in the world.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in Ireland as well as Newfoundland, Labrador and Montserrat!

On a personal note, my parents were wed on Saint Patrick’s Day back in 1963.  My Italian dad said that he married a beautiful Irish girl on Saint Patrick’s Day for luck.  The joke in our family was that he should have specified “GOOD” luck!

As you can imagine the day was always quite the occasion at our home, complete with Irish stew, soda bread and a small wedding cake to mark my parent’s anniversary.  To this very day, I still make a fuss and enjoy reminiscing about the good times we had in years gone by.

Tonight James’ sister arrives from New York.  I have a nice pot of Irish stout stew simmering on the stove and James has put up a yummy loaf of soda bread.  Although here in the USA people like to have a meal of corned beef and cabbage as the official St. Patrick’s Day dinner, it is a meal that did develop in Ireland but is seldom eaten and almost never used to honor Saint Patrick’s Day.  The dish that has the largest reputation as the “National Dish of Ireland,” is colcannon.  This dish is basically mashed potatoes made with scallion infused milk, lots of butter, salt, pepper and a healthy dose of cooked kale mixed in.  Its humble beginnings come from hard times but as is true with peasant foods world-wide, it is most delicious and comforting.

So erin go bragh and faith and bagua!  No matter how you chose to celebrate the day I wish you Sláinte [health] love and laughter… and may the road rise up to greet you.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day one and all.

Until next time,

Don

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The Six Degrees of Bacon

It’s no small wonder why we are a nation suffering from an obesity epidemic.  Am I the only one who’s noticed that there is a bacon obsession going on?  Slowly but surely bacon has found its way into just about everything we eat?

Although I have downed my share of bacon and eggs in my life and am still a big fan of the All-American BLT, I find it counterproductive to crumble it over my salads.  I mean, what’s the sense in eating a salad if you’re going to soak it in a rich dressing and sprinkle bacon over the top like grated cheese?  Still, I can understand those who choose to do this feel that it is better than putting the fatty fried pork between bread and slathering it with mayonnaise.

The other day I went into a diner.  It was Friday and being Catholic, I am not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent.  I decided upon a tuna melt.  I felt it a good choice as it is classic diner fare and fit into my “Meatless Friday.”  The waiter took our order and just as he was about to leave our table he turned and said, “Oh I almost forgot to ask you an important question regarding that tuna melt.”  I was expecting him to ask me what kind of cheese I would prefer on it but he instead asked, “Would you like bacon on that?”  I was shocked.  Bacon?  On a tuna melt????

I don’t know why it surprised me.  It seems that little piece of the piggy has morphed into some kind of pork virus, infiltrating everything in its way!  We are now a world with bacon ice-cream, chocolate with bacon and candied bacon.  There’s even a bacon salt [almost redundant] and something called “Baconnaise” billed as the ultimate bacon flavored spread which carries the slogan, “because everything should taste like bacon!”

Therein lies the problem.  To me, bacon is a flavor that can easily take over the foods it’s being added to.  Chefs and home cooks alike are wrapping meatloaf in it as well as roasted chickens and even turkeys.  It is added to burgers, wrapped around hot dogs and crumbled into mashed potatoes.  Bacon has become a very fatty high-cholesterol seasoning!  Not only that, but once you wrap your roast turkey in bacon, all the dripping taste like bacon.  How do you make pan gravy out of bacon fat? 

Now folks who know me, know that I am a bit of a food purest but surely I cannot be the only one who thinks that there is a time and place for the fatty, albeit tasty strips and that some foods are simply not meant for baconing up!

While working on a program last week, I was in a very high-end, five star hotel.  We broke for dinner and went to the hotel’s fancy- schmancy restaurant.  They were offering bacon wrapped asparagus, bacon burgers [although that is nothing new].  However it was added to their salads and wrapped around the pork chops as well as the meatloaf. It seemed whatever they had to offer; either had or could have bacon added to it.  The icing on the cake was when I asked the waiter what the soup of the day was.  He told me it was fresh chicken noodle soup… with…

wait for it…

wait for it…

you guessed it, bacon!

Until next time,

Don

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