Category: Ellen’s Posts


Monah, the Bernese Mountain Dog we rehomed two months ago, had surgery today…for a hematoma on her ear. It had been a nasty situation and obviously needed to be dealt with. So we did what responsible pet-owners do and took her to the vet.
She has quite a comprehensive vocabulary, and perhaps she had believed me when we casually climbed into the car this morning and I told her she would feel so much better soon. She loves going for rides. But, as we pulled into the parking lot at the vet’s office, her eyes mournfully revealed that she knew no good would come of this trip. Her last look at me as they walked her into the surgery was pleading. She thought I was abandoning her.
Now, here we are, ten hours later, and I couldn’t feel guiltier. I had picked her up about an hour ago, paid the $$$ bill, and was instructed as to medications and procedures. The two of us wobbled to the car, struggled into it and then out of it, staggered down the steps from the road and then up the steps to the first floor.
  I’d hoped that she’d feel reassured about her homecoming, being back in familiar spaces with those who love her and bring her comfort. Hugs all around. Well, looking at her, I know this is not going to be an easy night. Her ear has been shaved, giving her a wounded look. And what was elegantly called an Elizabethan collar…more like a lampshade…has accompanied her. So far I’ve refused to add to her indignity and put it on her. Her bloodshot eyes droop over her cheekbones. Her nose is dry. Her tail drags. The dog whose favorite spot used to be at my feet now wants to be a room away. For added measure…a real Sarah Bernhardt…when I go to stroke her and talk to her, she has begun to moan, whimper, and…believe it or not…yodel.
  Pets…like babies…instinctively know how to be in control of our emotions. It’s never easy to deal with one who is telling you that you let them down. I’ve gone through it before with other pets: seven dogs and 13 cats who have all resented trips to the vet that had some painful results…like neutering and spaying. Not true of our goats. Yeah, it must have hurt when they put rubber bands around their little testicles until they fell off, but they went on frolicking about, oblivious to the injustice, and easier to domesticate because of it.

  Our Monah will come out of her stupor tomorrow. Her ear may hurt even more when the anesthesia is out of her systerm, and we have pills to coax into her for that. But we’ll be able to go for a walk, she’ll want a belly-rub, and there are treats to get through any peckish moods. Return of rapport, hopefully. Meanwhile I’ll have a glass of sherry to get me through the night, and perhaps I’ll try yodeling in harmony.

Looking back on the last two weeks…

Haven’t posted for a while…partly because my typing wasn’t going smoothly due to having carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand. Two weeks later I can say that it was not the ordeal I had been warned of. The pain meds were the worst part; they made me woozie and dopey, so I chose to drink wine instead and avail myself of the healing benefits of the grape. There was little discomfort to get through. Therefore here I am, two weeks later, obeying the doctor’s order of taking it easy (no vacuuming, working in the garden, etc.) and feeling just grand (until I look at all of the cleaning and weeding awaiting me).
I’ve lived a long time and had never had a surgery. My only hospital stays were for baby deliveries. So I had no idea what to expect from this procedure. It’s funny what goes through your mind during that anticipatory stage: How does one opem a toothpaste tube or pill bottle one handed? How will I shave my left armpit while using only my left hand? When we go out for our anniversary dinner, do I just order soft foods or ask my husband of 44 years to cut my meat? Do I write and address all cards to be sent in early August ahead of time so that they are legible? Well, none of these really become issues. Even with a splint much right hand movement was possible. So if progress continues, I hope to be playing my violin again in another week or so…IF there is time for that while trying to tame the garden once more and get our house in order!



Sports, often an escape from, or a training for, or an enhancement of what we call “real life”. With the advent of the 2012 summer Olympics, it will be a source of national pride and an introduction to many fabulous young athletes from nations all around this globe. But for many Pennsylvanians, right now sport has given them a blow below the belt. The proud alumni and students of Penn State, who likely chose the institution because of its academic strengths, are reeling from the NCAA’s penalization of the football program. And that action will tarnish the reputation and financially affect the university for many years to come. It’s a shocker.
I’ve just returned from a very different sport-related weekend. Chuck and I have attended the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies for 27 years. We do this over and over again because it is a sport that we love, but also because we have come to know so many wonderful people who gather in the beautiful village of Cooperstown, NY, for this event. For us it is often like old home week when we get together. I’d like to share some of those people moments from our baseball weekend.
On the large front porch of the Inn at Cooperstown, where the guests gather and rock and swap tales, this year we met Hal McCoy, a Hall of Fame honored sports writer from Ohio. He is the man who created the name of “The Big Red Machine” for the Cincinnati teams of the 1970s and covered the Pete Rose story and the Marge Schott years. But we now know him as a personable man who has been declared legally blind since 2003 (strokes of the optic nerves) but was told by the Reds players that they would not let him retire as a writer, and they would help him with whatever he needed to do to continue. Not too many sports writers get that kind of love in return from their teams. He was in Cooperstown to cover the induction of Cincinnati’s own Barry Larkin.
Barry Larkin. I knew him only as a nemesis to the team that I love. I now know him as a man who could live his childhood dream of being a star, a rather dazzling one, on his hometown team. That’s what he talked about in his acceptance speech…but he delivered some of his speech in Spanish for the benefit of many of his gathered fans and those Hall of Famers whose roots are in the Caribbean or Central America. I wondered where this University of Michigan graduate’s fluency in Spanish came from. Hal McCoy told us that Barry taught himself the language when so many of his teammates were Latino and he wanted to be able to talk with them.
One of the guests at the Inn, named Jennifer, is a writer for the NY Times. She and her son come annually so that he can meet many of the players he idolizes. Jennifer, always toting a few laptops, hoped to spend this weekend writing fluff stuff about fans. Instead she worked from dawn until almost midnight on Saturday communicating with families of the victims of the horrible shooting in Denver. Her mission was to write the stories of those who had lost their lives, a lasting gift to their loved ones. When she wrapped it up late on Saturday, we shared a couple of bottles on wine on the porch and tried to talk of happier things.
Cooperstown has a fabulous summer opera company, Glimmerglass, as well as the famous Hall. Over dinner on Sunday night we began chatting with a man at the next table and soon learned that he is the director of the opera that had just debuted that afternoon, Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars”. His name is Tazewell Thompson. We had already heard that the opera had been received with many standing ovations from friends who had attended while we were at the induction ceremony. This very unassuming man had a very contented air about him, and we chatted about the benefits of the Metropolitan Opera’s live in HD series of operas (Tazewell is all for them),past operas we have enjoyed at Glimmerglass, his future projects…and the fact that we are both long-suffering New York Mets fans.
Sports–they can make us ebullient, and they can break our hearts and dash our spirits. And they are a common denominator, one that brings people together.

Let me tell you about our dog…

Two weeks late and two days early in blogging…my apologies for both. My excuses for lateness? Not sure that there are any that are acceptible.
We got a dog…but then so did Martha, and she still found time to blog.
I’ve been trying to keep my garden under control…picking, preserving, watering, weeding, deadheading, fertilizing, tieing up…but I wasn’t working in the garden 24/7. We had children and grandchildren visiting and made the most of every minute…but that was for just three wonderful days.
It’s been too hot…well, that seems to be a popular excuse and forgiveable for almost everything these days. I won’t bother with excuses for being early…afterall I didn’t catch you just getting out of the shower, and no one cares if you haven’t done your make-up yet. If it really bothers you, then please wait until Tuesday to read this.

Let me tell you about our dog. She’s an eight and a half year old Bernese Mountain Dog. Picture big, bearlike, lotsa curly fur, black with white and rust markings on her face and paws (and oh what paws).
Her name is Monah. We found her through a Berner rescue group in Maryland. We had had a Berner before, and they are truly gentle giants. When we had visited her in her previous home, we saw how attached she was to her people and place and so had some trepidations about how successful we would be in rehoming her. She had been a kind of celebrity in the town of Ellicott City, MD, since she was raised in a little shop and everyone in the town knew Monah. When her family found out that their son was allergic to her, it was difficult to find a new home because Berners just live an average of 7 to 9 years, and few people want to make the emotional and financial investment that an older dog requires given that time frame. But we fell in love with her, and I can say after our two weeks together that the feeling seems to be mutual. Whatever the time we will have with Monah, we will think of it as a fortuitious gift.

There’s a lot to be said for taking on an older dog: no puppy shenanigans, no chewing, no house breaking, no jumping up on visitors. Given her size, she cannot squeeze through our front gate or under the fence; she will not jump over the wall or need four-mile walks each day (pulling all the way) the way our last pup did. And old dogs seem to recognize when someone has opened a special place in their hearts for them. They give you unconditional love in return.

Happy Fourth of July! Thoughts on Something I Tend to Take for Granted.

Happy Fourth of July! I’m not a flag waver – that is, I tend not to wear my patriotic pride on my sleeve, much as I also believe my faith is a private matter. My mother was a badge wearing member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She’d worked long and hard to trace her ancestry back to a soldier who fought for our independence. I was proud of her, but I was not interested in becoming a DAR. Weird, I know, but public displays of religion (i.e. holding hands and saying grace in a restuarant) and patriotism rather embarrass me. (Hey! Don’t be too critical. It’s a personal choice. I don’t mind others being demonstrative, but it’s just not my “thing.”)
Am I proud to be an American? You better believe it. I rather took my citizenship for granted until me moved to Italy, and I realized how coveted my American passport was. Suddenly I wanted my three year old daughter to remember the USA. I made a tiny American flag for her bureau in the hotel in which we lived until our furniture arrived. Every morning Meg and I would salute the flag and sing “My Country, ’tis of Thee.”
Soon after we arrived in Italy, the USA landed our first astronauts on the moon. The morning it happened, some Italian men who where in the bar of the hotel where we were living, came to our room and took us down to the bar where everyone was watching the landing. (No, the rooms didn’t have their own television sets.)They made a path through the crowd for us; one man hoisted Meg up on his shoulders so she could see better. When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon’s surface, those Italian men applauded and cheered. Many cried! They all shook my hand and explained to Meg how lucky she was to be an American. At that moment I felt the wildest shot of pride in America that I’d ever felt. I realized what an honor it is to be an American.
Three weeks ago, I felt a similar feeling. We were eating at a restuarant in New York City. Our waiter told us he was from Kosovo. I told him I’d just read a book abour Kosovo. “Was it about the time of the trouble?” he asked. When I said it was, he said, “It’s much better there now. Thanks to the Americans!” Wow!
I have often thought how lucky I am to have been born an American woman at this time. Women in so many parts of the world are treated badly – VERY badly. By the sheer luck of the draw, I am not one of them. I have a wonderful home, plenty of food and clothing, an education that has kept me doing what I love – teaching. I have two children 3000 miles away – whom I can visit without ever having to show my passport! I have a husband who, in retirement, is free to pursue his interests – of which, I a proud to say, I am at the top of that list. There is so much more that being an American provides. Mostly I take it for granted, but today I need to recognize what a wonderful life America has given me. I AM a proud American! Happy Birthday, United States of America! You may not be perfect, but you’re the very best that this world has to offer. Of thee, I sing (quietly, but proudly.)

The secret is out of the bag!

The secret actually being plural–secrets–35 of them. They were touted to be Berks County’s Best Kept Secrets, and indeed they live up to that billing. A tour with that name was discussed on the May episode of That’s What She Said, and it is on-going from June 15 until this Saturday, the 30th.

The cast and crew of That’s What She Said (all 5 of us!) hopped into a car this past Saturday and set off on a road trip to uncover these BC treasures. What fun! And you’ll be able to enjoy it with us via video on our next show, July 18, 9:00 pm, on BCTV. We’ll remind you of that over the next few weeks.

Among the delightful discoveries was a secret garden, little goats that suckled on our fingers, an introduction to Stack and Whack, some refreshing spiced tea, lovely truffles, free goodies, great discounts, opportunities to win pirzes…and all topped off with ice cream. Can’t beat that for $7. Although we gave it our best effort for 5 hours, we only were able to see 7 of the 35 locales. Revealing secrets takes time! So there should be many more to learn about in future tours. With the success of this one, there are others planned.

What I have to reveal next would not exactly be a secret, but it certainly took Chuck and me by surprise: we’re getting a dog, too. Yes, I’ll blame this on Martha and her new Chooch, the pooch. There seems to be a contagion of dog fever. Although I’ve been searching rescue sites for quite a while, her news spurred me on to relink with some I had investigated before. This past week we found a Bernese Mountain Dog who needs a new home. She is an 8-year-old with no known health problems and a very sweet disposition named Monah. She was raised in a little shop in Ellicott City, MD, where she became a town celeb who even has her own Facebook page. We will bring her to our house next Tuesday.

To be continued….

Books, anyone?

Here’s to a happy-in-her-new-job Sheila, an art-inspired Martha, a very busy Christina, and a pickled Jane! How very diverse my friends are, what a good mix of thoughts.

So what of substance can I add on this rainy June morning?

I wasn’t expecting this rain, and obviously neither were my husband and his brothers who just left for a day of golf. They are not the die-hard golfing types who would slosh after that little ball, umbrellas aloft, in a downpour, so I think they will find a 19th hole somewhere to talk a good game.

This is the kind of day when one wants to curl up with a good book, and I am into one right now–a novel called “Appassionata” by Eva Hoffman. It is about a concert pianist on tour in Europe and explores…maybe exposes is a better word…how the music she plays–its themes, its expressions, its demands, its passions–controls her life. Hoping there will be a harmonic resolution!

I just finished another that my son recommended I read, “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You” by Peter Troy, the story of life journeys of the Odyssean sort. Shortly into the book I knew why Drew had thought it was a book for me. A reader has to relate to a story, and this one seemed to have a personal pull; the author and I must have some mutual places that have special meaning to us. Among the settings important to his story were Chatham, the Civil War hospital in Fredericksburg, VA, the Susquehana River, and the town of Cooperstown, NY, and its Lake Otsego. It became my journey too.

I’m hoping that you might suggest some other good summer reads. Anyone?


a solemn side-trip

Last week we visited with relatives in Akron, Ohio. Always nice to get caught up with family…who’s doing what in retirement, whose professional life has taken a new twist, who’s graduating, who’s getting married, and who’s having babies. One night there were 28 of us squooshed into the space on Aunt Rosalie’s screened-in porch, ranging in age from 2 months to 91 years. There was ample room in the rest of the house, but this family likes being close. A lovely time.
As we had driven to Ohio we noticed signs along the PA turnpike for the Flight 93 Memorial near the Somerset exit. My mother-in-law (the 91 year-old family member, who was traveling with us) is always game for a new experience, so on our return we made the turnoff heading north toward Johnstown.
Generally I am one who lives in the present and looks forward rather than past, that is until it is past enough to be deemed history. What happened on September 11, 11 years ago, was a tragedy that should present lessons about the pathway we are traveling now. I don’t identify with the national victimization that some seem to wallow in and sensationalize.
This trek was more of a journey for personal awareness than a personal pilgrimage.
Driving north from the turnpike through 20 miles of Pennsylvania hillside that have been denuded by mining companies and used as graveyards for unwanted vehicles, one begins to feel that if this tragedy had to happen anywhere, it was good that it happened there.
There is a long driveway to the memorial itself..time for thought. Reforestation is being done on the site, to add to the feeling of solemnity.
At the entrance plaza the pictures and identity of the 40 passengers and crew are displayed. The day’s story is retold from late departure of Flight 93 from Newark Airport bound for San Francisco; hijacking near Lake Erie; change of destination to impact with the US Capitol where Congress was in session; the courageous decision of these American passengers that their government would not be the victim of the four terrorists.
One can write messages of tribute on boards in the plaza. Then one walks along a low black wall while gazing out upon a distant boulder at the edge of a woods; it marks the site of the impact crater from the crashing plane. There are niches in the wall where people have left tokens of memorial: stones, plastic flowers, key chains, caps.
At the end of the walkway, there are simply 40 marble slabs bearing the victims’ names and 40 American flags. Nothing more needs to be said, and no one does. It is a silent place.
But I left feeling that there is much to remember.

I Love a Parade

And who doesn’t?

Sorry I missed the Armed Forces Parade on Saturday. But it was such a gorgeous weekend for all those garden projects. Saturday was one of those days when you feel good about what you are doing and feel good to be out there doing it.

But I still found parades to enjoy!

On Sunday, as we were leaving RACC Berks Hall, after having seen Kirk Lawrence doing an on-spot portrayal of Picasso as part of the Berks Senior Festival of the Arts, we heard the sound of a marching band. And there was a parade, make-shift as far as I know, with a band in full regalia and many, many people, marching across the Penn Street bridge in the honor of their cause. It stirred the soul.

And then on Monday, we were driving down Main St. in Oley, and met a parade of another sort. There were dozens of beautifully preserved antique cars driving in the opposite direction in that quaint borough. Most drivers and their passengers were dressed in early 20th centure touring garb. We had a short moment to talk to a participant while he was gassing up at Weis in Oley (can they use the same petrol as modern cars do?–didn’t ask that). We learned that they were in Reading for a Hub and Spoke gathering, and on each of several days they drive off in a different direction from the hub hotel of the host city. Each car must be in “like new” condition. And they were–the brass was polished, the paint shown (even on a cloudy day), and the engines purred. It was a spectacle to behold.

So now it is Tuesday, and as I venture out today I will keep my eyes and ears peeled, hoping for another procession. You can never get too much of a good thing.


a gardener’s lot

Baseball games may be rained out, but I, as a gardener, am rained in. It wasn’t so long ago that I was lamenting the lack of rain, and since the pump for our outside watering system was burned out, my garden was very thirsty. I was schlepping water by the dozens of sprinkling cans-ful to the neediest of veggies and new plantings. Now all of these botanical beings must feel that they are on a binge.
I think my theme here is that we gardeners are never happy with what we’ve got…always yearning for the Camelot weather–when “rain will never fall ’til after sundown”, and then in just the required amounts. Our daily sunshine should be sparkling bright but not hot enough to burnish.
And yet in spite of it all, looking out at any garden, yard, woodland, meadow, landscape this week–isn’t this one of the most beautiful times of the year? I’m sure we could rival Ireland and have 49+ shades of green. And among the verdancy (I didn’t make that word up–I looked it up)there are brush strokes of purple of the iris and wild phlox, globes of reds and pinks of peonies, and the brilliance of orange from the poppies about to pop. Quite a scene–even if you are looking between the raindrops or through sheets of them.
I could tick off a long list of chores still to be done…starting with the removal of those crafty weeds that are especially adapted to take advantage of the rain…going on to what still needs to be planted, transplanted, and pruned.
But for today, it’s not so bad to be inside…admiring, assessing, and anticipating.