Summer Daze

Remember the summertime of your youth — that seemingly endless expanse of time between the end of a school year and the beginning of another? The time just rolled over onto itself. The days felt long and leisurely. There was always time to play with a friend, make a wish on a dandelion puff, eat a wedge of watermelon, or just stare at the clouds in the sky. The innocence of childhood was a wonderful thing. Summer was a time to dream of the future, of the great things you hoped to accomplish in this amazing journey called life.

Stacks of books were checked out of the library. Remember books? Not books that you were required to read, but books you wanted to read. Books about other people’s remarkable lives and fantasies and ideas. Books to inspire. Magic! Plans were hatched to climb mountains, sail across seas, or explore foreign lands. Nothing was too big or daunting for a summer daydream. If you could dream it, you could do it.  Of course, this was ages ago, long before every child on earth seemed to be issued a cell phone at birth.

Kids don’t read much anymore. Well, not books, anyway. Kids spend most of their time reading their tiny screens, barely looking up to process the life going on around them. Parents give their children phones to appease them and keep them quiet. Kids used to be noisy and demanding and curious. That curiosity was healthy and manifested itself in a thousand questions to their parents about everything under the sun. The questions have been silenced now. Why ask questions of your parents when you can just ask Siri? But have you thought about what kind of answers they are being given?

The tech industry has literally taken over our minds and the minds of our children. The tiny screens are winning. We are programed to constantly be on our phones and to turn to our phones for our every need. Got a question? Ask Siri. Need directions? Ask Waze. Want to order food? Text UberEats. There’s a remedy for everything on the tiny screens, so why look anywhere else?

Control our minds and we will be controlled. It sounds very conspiracy theorist, but honestly, have you ever seen anything like this? Kids that hang out together are staring at their phones instead of talking to each other. They seem to have lost the capacity to interact with one another. They suffer from deep anxiety and depression. They constantly compare themselves to others on social media. If they don’t get enough likes on a post, they are despondent. What they achieve in life doesn’t matter unless it’s posted online and met with approval. Cyber-bullying is real and suicide rates of our young people has skyrocketed in the past 10 years. Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this?

Instead of seeing the devastating effects of tech in our lives and trying to change things, we seem to have sunk even further into the quagmire. Books have been almost completely phased out of school along with paper and pens. Kids can’t write in cursive anymore and very few can tell time on an analog clock. Kids are issued computers so they can continue to stare at screens all day, every day. And the ever-present smartphones are a daily fact of life for our children, from the very small to the very tall.

Recently at a family restaurant, I witnessed a large family with grandparents and aunts and uncles and kids sitting around a table eating dinner. The phones were there too, even in the hands of the smallest child in the highchair. His mom passed him her phone to keep him occupied while the grownups chatted. You see what’s happening here?

In the old days, that child would have been included in the conversation, perhaps passed around to the relatives with love and amusement. All of this would have contributed to the socialization of the child. But that didn’t happen. A tiny screen was placed in his hands, and he was placated, silenced, sedated, starting early on the road to addiction to devices. Because we are all addicted. From small to tall. Our phones ping and we look. Why? Because we are programmed to look. We must look. We can’t help ourselves, and our children are exactly the same.

But what are we missing out on because of our phones? Life, just life. Sometimes I wish these magical phones would simply go away – disappear! What if we woke up one morning and the phones were gone? We would have to learn again how to exist in this world on our own — how to read a book, how to have a conversation, how to tell time, how to read a map, how to daydream. It sounds marvelous, doesn’t it?

It’s not too late to make changes for your children. Maybe for the summer, you can put their phones away? Unplug, disconnect, turn off. Give them a chance to be children. Let their brains wander and be free, instead of being shackled by the invisible chains of technology. Remove the tiny screens and let your children experience life – the joy of summertime! It’s more important than you think.

Merry and Bright

I’m not a morning person. Never have been. Nonetheless, I respect the virtues of a beautiful morning. There’s something incredible about seeing the sun slip gently over the horizon and cast brilliant golden light onto the dark earth. It always overwhelms me with a sense of possibility. A new beginning set before us. A second chance. Hope.

You’d think someone with such a great appreciation of those fleeting morning hours would bounce out of bed each day with abandon, but sadly, that’s not the case. I’m somehow cursed to be both a night owl AND an early bird, staying up reading or tapping out stories on my computer until the deep hours of the night. Morning always arrives far too soon, and those glorious rays of sunshine offend my eyes and drive me to plunge ever more profoundly into my pillows, in a desperate quest for the last few moments of precious sleep.

Through the years, I have tried to change my schedule and make myself into a virtuous morning person. Morning people always seem to have it going on, don’t they? They thumb their noses at the night and gloat about their many achievements already completed by 9am, when those exhausted owls finally abandon hope of further sleep. I find that deeply annoying and yet, at heart, I must admit I do believe morning people are indeed more productive than night dwellers.

When I wrote my first book, I got up at 5:30 every morning and drank copious amounts of coffee until I completed the manuscript. It was the only way, as my nighttime mind was too often cluttered with the debris of the day to focus on the work. The shimmering silence of a new day provided me with a profusion of clarity. It was a gift, and I took advantage of those fragile hours at dawn until the deed was done, always taking time to peek out the window at sunrise to catch a glimpse of the new day’s glorious arrival.

But as soon as the final word of my tome was written, I bade goodbye to the early hours and fell back into my usual nocturnal routine. We, as humans, are intrinsically flawed, and this love of night and slothful sleep is perhaps my greatest weakness. Oh, for the New Year, I aspire to embracing the wee hours of the morning once more to raise my level of production in 2023! I will try. We all can dream.

On this fine morning of Christmas Eve 2022, my eyes flew open early, when the day was still quiet and golden. A small voice in my head whispered, “It’s Christmas!” and so it is. A smile drifted over my face, and I felt a twinge of childlike delight in my heart. Christmas. I love Christmas. Since my youth, it’s been a moment of magic and joy. I found it remarkable that every family around the world was touched by this elusive elf, clad in red velvet and snow. The excitement was almost overwhelming for little me.

That ethereal quality still lingers in my heart. Christmas! As a sensible adult, I understand that not everyone celebrates this holiday, but I get a quiet thrill from knowing that Christmas has transcended the constrains of the religious and is now considered a season of its own. The Season of Christmas! I love that. A season of joy, no matter your beliefs. The Christmas Spirit is available to one and all. It’s all about love and yours for the taking. How wonderful. And it starts today.

Honestly, as an adult and a parent, Christmas Eve is more about finishing up those last-minute chores for the big day – wrapping gifts, writing cards, preparing festive food, and driving kids to the shocking chaos of the mall for last-minute gifts. It’s hardly a day of rest and daydreams. And yet, when my eyes opened on this Christmas Eve morning, I was awash with the joy of the season. Love. Hope. Possibility. Magic. It’s all there.

I watched the sun cast her gilded rays over the mountains this morning and chase away the darkness of the rest of the year. That’s gone now. Christmas. I put on the soft strains of my favorite holiday music. Christmas. I whispered, “Thank you,” aloud to the day. I get to celebrate another Christmas with my loved ones. Amazing. Christmas. Life is the greatest gift of all, isn’t it? And I’m still here, after all this time. What a blessing.

Merry Christmas to you! May it be both merry and bright.

The Chipped Bowl

In Western cultures, we tend to value perfection. When something breaks, we throw it away and buy a new one. Value is placed on that which is flawless. It is quite the opposite in the East. According to Wikipedia, the Japanese word, Kintsugi, refers to a broken item, such as a chipped porcelain bowl, which has been meticulously repaired with gold or silver thread, highlighting its imperfection, and in that way, celebrating the unique quality of the bowl. The chipped bowl becomes even more precious to the holder because of its flaw. I find that both lovely and remarkable.

We always look forward to the annual gathering of our families at the holidays. We idealize that time together and imagine it will be carefree and loving, like the warm and wonderful scenes in a Christmas movie, everything merry and bright. The reality is often not quite that. How did Thanksgiving go for you? What is it about a large meal with extended family that brings out the worst in people? It could be the combination of rich food, alcohol, and conflicting views on sports teams? Maybe.

All efforts to maintain civil behavior seem to fade into the bountiful slices of pumpkin pie and melt away with the vanilla ice cream. There’s always the family member (or two) who drinks too much and gets messy. In my family, the dinner conversation would somehow always turn to politics during dessert. Of course, no one agreed, and before long, fireworks seemed to explode over the table. We children would look at each other with something akin to terror. Please God. Not politics. But, there was no stopping it. Like clockwork, all the kids would rise and silently start clearing the table. Better to wash dishes than listen to grownups argue.

The adults never said a word to us, or maybe they didn’t even notice we’d left. When the table was finally clean, and the dishes were sparkling, it was time to go home. Goodbyes were sprinkled all around and hugs were exchanged as we hurried to our cars, clutching our boxes of tasty leftovers from the feast. Everyone breathed a unified sigh of relief as we drove away into the night. Thanksgiving dinner – check! Moving on.

Erma Bombeck once said, “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a little emotional scarring.” It’s the deep truth in the words that makes them funny. To her credit, the illustrious Ms. Bombeck also said, “There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family.” I kind of love that. For me, it is my friends who make the world go round.

Families. Holidays. Arguments. Stress. People wax poetic on the importance of family, but sadly, family life too often is less than idyllic. Every year we send and receive holidays cards with photos of our families looking happy and successful. It’s easy to believe that these lovely families don’t have a worry in the world – indeed, once more, all merry and bright. But, the truth is hidden behind the smiles. Family can be precious and beautiful but also jealous and unkind. Your siblings are supposed to be your best friends but what if they are not? People move away from home and put thousands of miles between themselves and family for a reason. Just because someone is related to you doesn’t mean you like them. Or have anything in common with them. It makes sense that these annual gatherings are often fraught with tension.

The blood link is considered strong, but families that can actually live and play together peacefully through the years have a unique gift. It is the exception, rather than the rule. The rest of us must do the best we can. The modern world has created families through marriage, divorce, blended families, and adoption. Many of us have made our own families from a ragtag group of misfits who simply fit together – like missing puzzle pieces, reunited at last. The people in our lives should love us for our imperfections, not in spite of them. Like the beautiful, chipped bowl, repaired with golden thread. Kintsugi. Perfectly imperfect. During this holiday season, remember to be grateful for the people we call ‘family’ in our lives. Not the ones we are supposed to love, maybe, but the ones we do love. Like the chipped bowl. Perfect.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

The Universe, Outer Space, Earth, and Me

William Shatner recently made it back from his civilian trip into space, courtesy of Jeff Bezos. Upon his return, Shatner spoke of the overwhelming grief he felt while being in space and seeing earth in all its unique blue-ness, so small and insignificant in the universe of deep, black nothingness. It made Shatner realize that here on earth is “where the love is.” That’s what he said. This is it. This is the place. Love can be found right here. And it made him profoundly sad to know that we are polluting this pristine environment and throwing it away. All of this is a gift – a miraculous gift and we are turning our backs on it.

Space – darkness, fear, cold, claustrophobia, solitude. What do you think of when you think of outer space? Of bobbing around in a spaceship, a million miles from anywhere? Would you want to take a trip out there? I love the concept of it, the principle. Of seeing what is beyond our little world. How fascinating the planets and stars and solar systems are! But then fear would stop me in my tracks. I wouldn’t want to go for fear of never coming back. I would feel absolute terror that I would not be able to return.

I remember watching an old Swedish film called “My Life as a Dog.”  In the film, the narrator is a little girl who is vaguely obsessed by a dog. At that time, the Soviet Union had launched a dog in an unmanned rocket ship into space. The dog’s name was “Laika.” And poor Laika would never come home. The Soviets though it was a wonderful idea and apparently watched the dog eventually perish as his little space capsule swirled away, lost in the stars. The little girl was deeply troubled by this. Throughout the film, she wondered how Laika was feeling, if Laika was lonely or scared or hungry or in pain. If Laika knew she wouldn’t make it out alive. Did she know she was going to die? What was Laika thinking?

I loved the sweet simplicity of the child’s thoughts. And indeed, I shared sympathy for poor Laika, sent out into the universe, never to return home. Home. Our little blue planet. I was quite taken by Shatner’s account of his grief. What we have here on this planet of ours is so truly remarkable and most of us never take note of it. We just keep going day after day – same old shit. Instead of breathing in this life, this planet. Realizing what a gift it is to be here, to be alive, to have our feet on this earth. Was it all predestined or a magnificent mistake? Who knows. But here we are. Home.

Sometimes I have this this overwhelming urge to go home. I’m homesick and wistful and just want to go home. And then I realize I am home. But is this really it? Is there nowhere else to go? The home I knew as a child, I left long ago when I set off for college on the faraway East Coast. I only returned for short visits, but never again to live there as my home. My mom and her beloved dog are there still but it doesn’t feel like home to me anymore. The neighborhood is full of old memories I don’t want to remember and the dreams of children who grew up and floated away.

They say you can never go home and alas, perhaps they are right. Where is my home? When my children go off to college and their rooms are suddenly empty, where will I go? Or will I simply stay here and build a new story of my own? What will that be without their laughter and joy? That happy noise? Just four walls and a ceiling – the little old lady who lived in a shoe. Not a home, per se. Just a place to lay my hat until the next adventure comes along. A leaf drifting in the wind, searching for that ineffable Shangri-la that lives in my mind. Home.


As I assist my beautiful teenage daughters to get ready for their Homecoming dance – the dresses, the shoes, the hair, the makeup – I remember far too well my own Homecomings at my own high school many years ago. Home coming. Coming home. A rite of passage for Americans, as old and young, we gather back at our childhood schools and reminisce. I was so very young, as are they. So very young, indeed, yet trying on womanhood for size and seeing how it feels. Watching these young ladies, my daughters, slightly gawky, slightly insecure, terribly beautiful, and now very tall, stepping out all dressed up makes me feel proud, yet wistful. I can’t help but wonder where the little children who populated the last two decades of my life have gone.

A child is someone who passes through your life and disappears into an adult. We watch it happen and cannot believe it is so. Sometimes I feel sad and miss the funny little souls that they were. Even slightly panicked, as though I’d misplaced those children somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention. Look away and you’ve missed their childhood. When you’re in the thick of it, the days feel long, and it feels as though life will always be like this. The routine will never vary. You’re in it for life. They will be young forever. But that’s just a mirage in the mind of a sleep-deprived mother. Because they do grow up whether you are a dutiful mom or not. There’s not stopping the swift passage of time.

As we roll forward into thoughts of college and the next step in the lives of my kids, I miss the mommy that I was and the simple life we had – playing at the park, eating ice cream, napping, taking long walks with the double stroller, somehow managing to get them both back into their car seats, folding up all 40 pounds of that stroller, and tossing it into the back of the faithful minivan. Spending time learning and laughing together.

I fondly remember nighttime prayers and endless choruses of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” That particular song was slow and gentle and soothed them into a deep sleep. I only remembered a few verses but would sing them over and over again until either they fell asleep, or I did. I wondered if the lyrics might scare them but of course they heard the song the way a child might, in words that make sense to them. “Swing Low, Sweet Cherry Eyes…” “Cherry Eyes.” That’s what my daughter thought I was saying. No rhyme or reason needed. So funny and dear. It was simply the soothing quality of my voice that they craved at the end of the day.

 A year and a half away from high school graduation, and I am feeling grateful for the times we had. That I succeeded in raising them alone though I had no idea what I was doing. Never did find an effective handbook with all the Motherhood How-To’s. Grateful that their addict father didn’t damage them irreparably along the way. I was always there to pick up the pieces and be the responsible parent they needed. Grateful that they love me and that we all love each other as they’ve grown up. A lot of families are not so fortunate. Grateful every time I hear them say, “I love you, Mom,” even as they are running out the door. Grateful that I represent safety to them. Grateful for the dear children I thought I would never have.

I still don’t know how to do this motherhood thing and have surely made thousands of mistakes. But I am still here, and I have my daughters’ hands gripped in my own. One child for each hand. And as such, we will travel through the rest of my days until they take the lead and I fade into beloved memory, many years from now. Though we live in a society that fears old age, I welcome each day and every day I can spend with these two souls. My daughters. As they travel through life, I am their guide. How did all this happen? Who knows? Life is ever mysterious and beautiful.

Capturing the Mystique

In my real world profession as a Los Angeles real estate agent, I have the amazing opportunity to represent the most glorious properties. Sometimes it’s up to me, as the agent, to try to capture the essence of a property with my words, so without ever visiting the home, the reader has a vision and a feel for it. The following is one of my favorites.

Just up the road from the splendid, historic Pickfair Estate, once belonging to early Hollywood movie stars, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, lies yet another gorgeous, illustrious Hollywood property – the former home of celebrated talent manager, Buddy Morra, his brilliant wife, and their three lovely children.

Buddy Morra could be described as a gentle giant in the world of comedy and music, from the 1970’s until well into the 21st century. Boasting shining celebrity clients such as Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Joanne Worley, Woody Allen, Jim Carrey, and Martin Short, among so many others, Buddy was loved and respected by all. He spoke softly, and the entire entertainment industry leaned in to grasp every precious word.

Known for his “handshake deals,” Buddy never had contracts with his clients. If a client wanted to leave, he could do so at any time. He also never took a commission from a client who was struggling. A true gentleman from start to finish, Buddy was a man of grit and integrity with no ego to be found. He stood out as a beacon of radiant light in the oft-treacherous waters of entertainment industry.

Originally from the Bronx, Buddy was a pioneer in the world of talent. He loved to discover brand new performers and launch their careers. With incredible taste and a keen eye for that ineffable star quality, Buddy discovered Robin Williams performing mime in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Billy Crystal performing at a bachelor party, and David Letterman as the warm-up performer for a small comedy show. A lifelong lover of jazz, Buddy handled many successful musicians as well, including the esteemed John Pizzarelli, Michael Feinstein, and Linda Eder.

Above all, Buddy valued his family and friends. His darling wife, Carol, a stunning multi-talented actress/director/producer and loving mother, was the yin to Buddy’s yang and together they were one of Hollywood’s most adored couples. They purchased their Beverly Hills home in December of 1976, and as they say, the rest is history.

The parties thrown at the shimmering house at 1627 San Ysidro Drive were truly phenomenal. Anyone who was anyone was there. And everyone was there! The best and the brightest stars of Hollywood filled Carol and Buddy’s home with their twinkling light, including Milton Berle, Joanne Worley, Michael Feinstein, Lainie Kazan, Mort Sahl, Suzanne Pleshette, Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Redd Buttons, and of course, the wonderful Billy Crystal and effervescent Robin Williams.

An invitation to 1627 San Ysidro Drive was something to be treasured. If you were lucky enough to be invited, you were someone special. And Carol and Buddy effortlessly made all their guests feel beloved and at home. There’s something singular about this glorious 4-bedroom/4-bathroom, 3600 SF house on an almost 11,000 SF lot, and not just because the home is breathtakingly beautiful, with its soaring ceilings and illuminating skylights, and the warm, custom kitchen that easily welcomes in a crowd. Maybe it’s the gentle flow from the dazzling great room to the elegant, formal dining room to the vast, sparkling windows of the comfortable garden room? Or perhaps it’s the old Hollywood glamour of the upstairs billiards room and library?

You have to wonder how many Hollywood deals were struck within those four walls, so casually cool, yet marvelously mythic. Guests would meander out to the abundantly verdant garden to regard the heavens from the moon-watching deck or soak in the soothing, bubbling jacuzzi. The evenings went on until deep into the night.

1627 San Ysidro Drive was always filled with music and laughter as the talented guests, feeling happy and relaxed, belted out Broadway tunes or told endless sets of jokes that kept the rooms in stitches. The house felt like home to all who darkened its stained-glass doorway. It’s impossible to lay a finger on the “why” of it all. It was a privilege to be there – those who graced the elusive guest list knew they’d been hand-selected – but the rooms never felt stuffy or snobby. Call it good karma, magic in the air, or quite simply a home with a heart, 1627 San Ysidro Drive was a place of joy and safety, warmth and love, a haven to the rich and famous, a home to Carol and Buddy and the children, and a glorious destination to the lucky ones invited to those memorable fetes.

The notable neighborhood of this grand house is lovely and pristine and has been quietly populated with celebrities for decades. San Ysidro Drive and its environs have been inhabited by the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Sammy Davis Jr., Raquel Welch (her daughter, Tawny Welch, was babysitter to the young Morra children) Danny Kaye, Rona Barrett, Kirk Douglas, Priscilla Presley, Charro, and the list goes on.

1627 San Ysidro Drive was the original builder’s home in the 1953 development. Today, beautiful houses go right to the very top where the street splits off into two private, gated communities. Set above the flats of Beverly Hills in the true hills of Beverly Hills, 1627 San Ysidro Drive is much more than a house. It is a legend.

And now it can be yours. The opportunity to buy a home like this might only happen once in a lifetime. It’s catching lightning in a bottle – now is your chance! 1627 San Ysidro Drive is offered at $3,999,000. Better hurry.

Reflections on September 11

On 9/11, I like to take time to remember the people who left their loved ones in a flash. Those who thought they were going to just another mundane day at the office. Those who fearlessly rushed into burning buildings to save lives. Those who boarded planes that morning expecting to simply have a cup of coffee and quietly read the newspaper. Those who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I heard that phone calls flooded the networks as people trapped in the Twin Towers realized with mounting fear that these were their final moments. Their last thoughts were to reach out to their loved ones – to hear gentle voices one last time. How terrifying that must have been to know they weren’t getting out. There was no escape. They were going to die.

Some flung themselves from the windows, a hundred stories up, preferring a moment of flight, of some sort of freedom before falling falling falling to their deaths. Perhaps they hoped that God might snatch them up before they hit the ground, and who are we to say that He didn’t? Maybe their bodies fell, but their souls soared? I like to think that’s what happened, because the alternative is so horrifying.

Most never got to say goodbye to their families. Probably never got to say, “I love you” to those they adored. The end is so final, isn’t it? We have no wiggle room to right any wrongs before disappearing into the beyond.

9/11 should always be a day of remembrance for those who perished; those who had life whisked away from them in a most obscene act of terrorism. And it should be a day for everyone to say all the things they want to say to the people in their lives, but maybe don’t, because of fear.

What words do we not share with family, friends, and loved ones for fear of exposing ourselves? So many. We have such fear of laying our hearts on the line, petrified of rejection. Better to be silent than to be turned away. But is it better? I think Shakespeare said, “Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” Such wisdom in those words.

On the somber anniversary of 9/11, live and love like it’s your last day on earth. Because you never know. How careful we would be if only we knew which goodbyes would be our last. And say a prayer for all those who died on that tragic day at the turn of the century. May they rest in peace. 

The Now

I woke up the other morning to shocking news. My sweet friend Julie’s wonderful, talented husband, comedian David Arnold, had passed away unexpectedly at the terribly young age of 54. I still can’t believe it. David was healthy and well and it was thrilling to see his career lighting up in the last few years. He became a star. His final bow was taken suddenly and all too soon. I am devastated for Julie and her beautiful, young daughters. Such a loss. Hard to wrap your mind around it when David was healthy and well and indeed, larger than life. Unimaginable that he could truly be gone. People in the limelight always seem somehow invincible, don’t they? But in the end, we are all mere humans.

My close friends know I am slightly obsessed by the ‘Now’ of life. We tend to make plans for the future and neglect the ‘Now’. We say to ourselves, “I will be happy when ….” We look to the horizon and let the present moment pass us by, unnoticed. But what if your future doesn’t extend for another 40 years? We just don’t know. Why do we so often neglect our happiness now, in anticipation of a bright future, when actually, ‘Now’ is all we truly have?

The loss of this bright, promising comedian is such a tragedy. This dark moment serves as a reminder to me to kiss my loved ones today. Make bold decisions today. And seek happiness today. Because today is all we have. God bless the Arnold family at this deeply sad time. RIP David Arnold.

Coffee, Oh Coffee….

I’m a coffee drinker. I love it. I really do. I love everything about it, from the warm, dark color of the beans, to the incredible fragrance of the brew, to the smooth, warming taste. The smell of coffee percolating makes me smile and feel relaxed. It’s the scent of home and comfort. I suppose that’s why coffee shops are so popular. They become homes away from home, all because of the magic of coffee. Coffee has saved me so many times as a parent when I needed that little pick-me-up to keep me going so I could stay present for my kids. It’s not an overstatement to say coffee really is a lifesaver in my world.

So then, why do people love to hate on coffee? They suggest other “healthier alternatives” to coffee, and often state with pride that they “don’t drink coffee” like it’s a badge of honor. Hmmm. But why is coffee bad? And I’m talking coffee – pure coffee – not soda or Red Bull or those questionable caffeine-infused energy drinks. Coffee, pure and simple. The beans come from the earth. They are not man-made. We filter clean, fresh water through those beans and come up with the most beautiful, aromatic beverage that naturally energizes us, and is absolutely delicious in all its many forms – classic drip, espresso, cappuccino, latte, iced, and the list goes on.

I suppose if you drank 10 cups a day, that might not be a healthy choice. But moderation in everything is wise, right? And while coffee energizes the body and makes you feel sparky and good with a clear mind, it never clouds your thoughts and makes you do stupid things like say, alcohol or a multitude of recreational drugs. Coffee is a one-hit wonder. No side effects to worry about. And doctors say a few cups a day may actually help to stave off dementia. That’s a good thing, right? And in general, coffee gives you a feeling of joy (that aroma!) and well-being, and it is 100% legal and inexpensive.

So the next time someone tries to coffee-shame you, just remember my words. Coffee is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Losing Pumpkin

By Elizabeth Kate

I killed my cat. At least, that’s how it feels. Officially, Pumpkin was euthanized, after being diagnosed with terminal liver disease. But in spite of the diagnosis, he didn’t want to go. He was my faithful pet until the end. His spirit was strong, but his body was weak. Pumpkin fought death.

My dear cat was suffering. He hadn’t eaten in more than a week and couldn’t hold anything down. If he took more than a few sips of water, he started to vomit and dry heave. And of course, the only thing he wanted to do was drink. Pumpkin couldn’t understand why I would take away the water bowl after he took a few mouthfuls. He would sit patiently on the bathroom counter hoping I would turn on the faucet. It broke my heart to see him there. I wanted to give my poor baby water, but it always ended badly. Helping to quench his thirst made him sick all over again – a vicious circle.

We searched out a vet who could euthanize Pumpkin at home since he hated going to the vet. Pumpkin also hated his carrier. We had to lure him in with some sort of treat, but he would begin meowing indignantly once he realized he was locked in. He would get progressively louder as we made our way out to the car and was positively howling by the time we arrived at the vet’s office.

I didn’t want Punks to have such an experience on the day he would be put down – his death day, if you will. I wanted it to be quiet and peaceful, so he would just sort of float away, far from any pain or discomfort. This traveling vet seemed ideal, and her assistant patiently explained how the euthanasia was carried out. The animal would receive two injections. The first injection would put the animal into a gentle, twilight state, and the second would end their life. It sounded doable with the least amount of trauma. The price was high, but how can you put a price on something like that? I hired the vet.

She arrived the next morning and went over the process briefly. Before I knew it, the vet was giving Pumpkin a huge injection. I didn’t know she was going to do it right away. Maybe we would have a moment to say goodbye? But she got down to business without pause. It happened very quickly. Maybe she thought we might change our minds as my children and I were all clearly distraught.

I guess most animals are tranquilized immediately by this first shot, but not our Pumpkin. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The needle went in, and he screamed in pain! I was horrified. He struggled and scratched and bit, literally fighting for dear life to escape our grasp. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Now again, the vet had explained that the first shot “calms and soothes the animal and the final injection escorts them over the rainbow bridge.” No one said a thing about incredible fear, fighting, and clawing and struggling from us, trying to hide, to escape, to get away. It was awful. Pumpkin ran to the hallway door and was furiously reaching his paws under the door, desperately trying to escape Dr. Death. He was fighting madly for his life with every inch of his being.

I ran after him and held him down so he couldn’t escape into the other room. It felt so wrong to be doing this. What was happening? I was sickened by the way everything was unfolding and choking on my tears. My heart squeezed tightly in my chest. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Was it all an appalling mistake?

Pumpkin wasn’t ready to go. My baby wanted fiercely to live. He was so scared. I wanted to stop, to rewind, to end this trauma. To go back per se? Could I stop the death wish after that first shot? Was that the right choice? I didn’t know. The vet said she was shocked. That this had never happened before. She explained his spirit was still very strong – and that this was just an adrenaline rush – but I could barely hear her through my tears.

The twilight medicine started to kick in and Pumpkin must have felt a wave of vertigo. He struggled to get up, but his feet collapsed out from under him like a ragdoll. It was awful. Like he was suddenly inebriated and had lost control of his body. It must have been confusing and terrifying for him. And it was on me. My fault. I did this.

Pumpkin wasn’t ready to go but I ushed him out. I killed my cat. I didn’t do it by myself but instead hired an assassin to take him out while I watched. I helped. I aided and abetted the crime. He trusted me and I betrayed that. I hired the Grim Reaper to make a house call. I was there at the very moment that the final shot was administered. The vet put her stethoscope against his furry white chest and listened for a heartbeat. Nothing. She whispered softly, “He’s gone.”

Gone. Gone. So final. But what if I wanted him back? What if I realized there had been an grave mistake and Pumpkin was actually fine and didn’t need to be put down at all? Gone. Gone too soon. I wanted my cat back. But where did he go? Far away, away from all of us sobbing over his little wasted body. My children and I cried and cried but there was no bringing him back. Pumpkin had left the building. The vet went outside to give us some quiet time to mourn together.

Guilt weighed like lead in my chest. Grief washed over me like waves in the sea, each one more bitter and salty than the last. He’s just a cat for God’s sake. A stupid cat. But my cat. My friend. And he was gone. And nothing could be done.

But then, he wasn’t just a cat. He was a card-carrying member of the family. Always looked pissed off at the world. He gamely gave us friendly head butts and purred so loudly he sounded like a motorboat. Pumpkin could never could just walk into a room. He had to run in, full speed, and maybe crash into something along the way, like the character “Kramer” on “Seinfeld.” He was exceptionally feisty. If his brother was curled up a little too comfortably on the bed, he might come over and bite him on the neck and then take that nice, warm, newly vacated spot. He was a character to be sure.

Pumpkin has been gone a few weeks now. I’m holding it together. I make bad jokes to the kids about how we could have stuffed him and made him into a paperweight or maybe a cute hat or a single, fuzzy Ugg boot. I can’t talk about or think of him too much because people will think I’m a crazy cat lady. I’m not. Just a cat mom who lost her baby. And it hurts. I remember the look in his eyes. The fear. The confusion. Right till the very end, he didn’t want to go. He didn’t go peacefully into the night. He fought till the very end. And I pushed him over.

Will I ever get over the guilt? I don’t know. Does that make me insane? Maybe. But I miss how he used to meet me at the door like a little dog. I miss how he always slept on my stomach when I lay down for a nap. I miss that he was disgusted by the smell of perfume. He would actually make a terrible face like he couldn’t breathe. It was so funny. He would back away from me and run out of the room if I had on perfume or even just scented body lotion. He was a very sensitive feline.

My daughters used to tell me that Pumpkin would pout and act miserable until I came home from work. He missed me. I was his person. And now I miss him. My dear sweet guy. More than just a cat. A friend. A dear friend. So many memories. A lot of regret.

I wish it had ended differently. All I wanted was for my sweet guy to be released from his bodily pain. I know he is at peace now. I hope wherever he is, he can forgive me for that disaster of a death scene. It was never my intention to make him suffer. I hope he knows that. I love him. I always will. My heart belongs to that orange, furry boy who answered to the name of Pumpkin.