What I Want People To Know About Me

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I’m fortunate to belong to a writing group that offers a different topic each week. This week the site offered three different topics we could explore. I opted for the above title because it forced me to think how I would respond.

What I Want People To Know About Me…

Quite frankly, my life is not an open book for everyone to have access to and dissect what I want others to know about me.

The best friend I ever had…our friendship lasted over 40 years…died unexpectedly one month ago. We knew everything about each other and had no secrets. We knew about our relationships, both past and present and we knew all about career choices and the stupid stuff we did in our lives. We never judged each other and instead, our bond grew out of the respect we had for our candidness.

I don’t divulge a lot about myself to acquaintances. You see, there is a comfort zone we reach with our close friends because we are aware of how they will act and react to what we share with them. I guess it boils down to who we can and cannot trust. Perhaps it is why I classify myself as an introverted extrovert. For instance, if I’m with a group of people I have the ability to carry on conversations with almost anyone, no matter what their level of education, occupation or station in life. You see, I know a little about a lot and that gives me the confidence to skim the surface of a myriad of topics. However, once the conversation becomes more detailed I simply smile, nod my head and then make a hasty retreat.

Here are some things I’m at ease sharing in this forum:

I love gardening. I am the closest to my Higher Power when my hands are in the soil and I move earthworms from one spot to another.

I’m a passionate home cook who also enjoys doing grocery shopping. Creating homemade meals is not only satisfying but has made me a critic of many restaurants. I’m quite fussy about the quality of food served in eating establishments. Of course, cooking creates many dirty pots, pans and dishes. You may be surprised that I am content is washing dishes. As a matter of fact, I find this duty relaxing as I slip into a form of meditation.

I’m an avid reader. My preferences are mysteries, drama, nonfiction, and history. My least favourite thing to read is poetry. To me, poetry is similar to looking at a Picasso painting. In other words, it is just too hard for me to figure out.

I’m an ardent writer and have actually had some of my stories published in a magazine distributed through Barnes & Noble. I write in the vernacular without using $10.00 words.

I despise racism and prejudices. I subscribe to a philosophy of live and let live. I also believe what people do in their bedroom is their business and it doesn’t adversely affect me.

This was an interesting subject to explore and although I didn’t tip my hat too much, I think many of you will now know more about me than you used to.

Dennis L. Page

Stop the Insanity

Imagine working for one of the best employers in the country and they offer a benefit package more outstanding than any other employer. The only way these rich benefits could get any better is if you were entitled to receive them even though you no longer were in their employ.

A glaring example of wasteful spending in Washington, DC was on display during the State of the Union Address. Our former one term U.S. Representative was seated with the Republicans of Congress on the House floor. She served only two years and was voted out of office and yet, she was still there in Washington.

Our politicians love to preach to their constituents about the evils of entitlements. However, they are the most entitled people in America. Here is a short list of their perks, even if they were only in office for two short years:

Lifetime access to the floor of the chamber they served.

Free lifetime access to the members only dinning rooms.

Free lifetime access to the Capitol’s wellness center and gym.

Free lifetime access to all the parking garages used by House and Senate members.

Free lifetime access to reserved parking spots at Washington, DC airports.

Free lifetime access to a dedicated congressional call desk connected to the major airlines giving them the ability to reserve a seat on multiple flights, but only pay for the flight they boarded.

The potential to receive lifetime health insurance benefits. Although members of Congress must purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act, they do receive a federal subsidy of 72% off their premiums.

If a member of Congress dies while in office, their family will receive a payout equal to one year’s salary…$174,000…per the Congressional Institute. Conversely, the families of military personnel killed in action receive a death benefit of $100,000 regardless of their length of service.

It’s obvious there is a lot of money to be made which encourages influence and power in Washington. That’s the catalyst for spending millions and millions of dollars to elect/reelect our House and Senate politicians who are only scheduled to be in session 121 days for 2019. Both political parties have managed to pad their pockets and enrich their lives on the backs of the American workers and taxpayers.

The next time you hear one or more of these DC fat-cats demonize our Social Security or Medicare remind them that we earned our benefits and they are the guilty party of entitlements for a job that can eventually pay up to $174,000 per year for 121 days of work.

Dennis L. Page

 

The House Beyond A Tree Line

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We are so tangled in the complexities of life we have a tendency to not see the forest for the trees.

The house on Holly Lane had an idyllic backyard with a beautifully manicured lawn, followed by a field and then a tree line that stretched the entire panorama of one’s vision. Deer, wild turkeys, eagles, fox, coyotes, raccoons, possums, falcons, and a potpourri of other critters inhabited the land.

We have a tendency to become complacent with our surroundings. We let our guard down as we relish in the serenity we’ve created. These feelings go part and parcel with the joys of home ownership. Sometimes change is good and other times, it can prove to be an exercise in patience and tolerance.

After years of drinking in a splendid scenery and being wooed by the sounds of various species of birds things began to change. It all started with the constant din of chainsaws which lasted days on end. This was followed by the rumblings of a bulldozer and heavy equipment. Finally, the air was polluted with the rat-a-tat-tat of hammers and the piercing whirl of table saws and circular saws. Obviously, something huge was going on beyond the tree line. It was summertime and the trees had successfully woven a superb privacy screen blocking out of view anything that didn’t represent nature. This was the season the animals didn’t come to visit the yard.

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Autumn came and still the noise of chainsaws cutting down one tree after another was nauseating. At the top of the hill in the back field is a house owned by a husband and wife who own a popular restaurant and bar, a banquet facility and numerous income properties. They are pillars in this small community and love the area they are native to. In an effort to stop the deforestation occurring this great couple and wonderful neighbor purchased 5 additional acres of land abutting up against the property of the “tree cutter.” Now, everyone adversely affected can breathe a sigh of relief.

The fortunate people in this world are those who have the financial ability to pick and choose where they wish to reside. Many like to experience all four seasons and some prefer warmer areas. People like to live in the mountains, the forests, by lakes, rivers, streams, the ocean, the desert, in the suburbs or in an urban setting. Variety is, indeed, the spice of life. We rejoice in the decisions made and embrace our surroundings. Unfortunately, not all things last forever and change is inevitable.

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People are content in familiar surroundings. The mere thought of altering their environment throws many into a tizzy. George Bernard Shaw stated, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart stated, “Change may not always bring growth, but there is no growth without change.” Mr. Bennett is also quoted as saying, “Happiness depends on your mindset and attitude.”

The homeowners on Holly Lane analyzed their situation and realized things really weren’t as traumatic as they had originally thought. After all, the house beyond the trees is completely hidden from sight for 7 months out of the year and only a vague image can be seen for the remainder of the year. The wild animals have returned and birds are chirping and singing once again. Life is much more harmonious when we finally come into acceptance of things we cannot change.

Dennis L. Page

Chicken, Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti

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Add flour, egg and water and voila you have pasta. I don’t think there is a type or shape of pasta I don’t like. I love spaghetti and meatballs, meat sauce and shells, lasagna, pasta salad, baked ziti, rigatoni, linguini, capellini, egg noodles, and penne pasta.

Recently I ran across a recipe for stuffed manicotti that I tweaked a tad, but the secret to this dish is in the sauce.

INGREDIENTS

1 10 ounce package of frozen spinach

2 cooked and cubed/shredded skinless, boneless chicken breasts

7.5 ounces of ricotta cheese

6 tablespoons of butter

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup of milk

48 ounces tomato sauce

2 teaspoons dried basil

1.5 teaspoons garlic powder

1.5 teaspoons brown sugar

1 whole box uncooked manicotti shells (approx. 14 shells)

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese

DIRECTIONS

Drain spinach in a colander and pat dry. Mix chicken, ricotta cheese and spinach together and then stuff each shell with mixture.

In a large saucepan, melt butter and then stir in flour until smooth and gradually add broth and milk. Bring to a boil, cooking and stirring for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the tomato sauce, garlic powder, basil, and brown sugar. Cook on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes until heated through.

Spread 1/2 cup of sauce into a greased 9” X 13” baking dish. Arrange manicotti over the sauce and then pour enough sauce over the manicotti to cover. You will have extra sauce, but that will come in handy for leftovers.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes until manicotti is soft and cooked. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered for another 8 to 10 minutes until cheese is meted.

Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Dennis L. Page

Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip

If you want a tantalizing appetizer for the holidays, football, basketball, birthday party or just a get together then you owe it to yourself and guests to try the Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe.

This recipe is one of my all time favorites and is a home run, out of the park, slam dunk success whenever I make it. I hope you will give it a try. This is definitely the time of year to bring this one out.

BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP
LAYERED, BAKED DIP WITH BUFFALO CHICKEN,
CREAM CHEESE, RANCH/BLEU CHEESE DIP AND, CHEESE.
SERVE WITH CHIPS AND CELERY

INGREDIENTS:

1 POUND BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS
8 OZ. CREAM CHEESE, SOFTENED
½ CUP RANCH OR BLEU CHEESE DRESSING (I USE BLEU)
¼ – ½ CUP FRANK’S HOT SAUCE OR FRANK’S BUFFALO WING SAUCE
8 OZ. PACKAGE SHREDDED MOZZARELLA CHEESE OR CHEDDAR CHEESE
(I USE MOZZARELLA)

PREPARATION:

BOIL CHICKEN UNTIL COOKED THROUGH
DRAIN AND SET ASIDE TO COOL
SPREAD CREAM CHEESE EVENLY OVER BOTTOM OF
9″ X 2″ BAKING DISH
SPREAD DRESSING EVENLY OVER CREAM CHEESE & SET ASIDE
SHRED CHICKEN AND MIX WITH HOT SAUCE SPREAD EVENLY
OVER DRESSING IN DISH
SPRINKLE CHEESE EVENLY OVER TOP OF CHICKEN
COVER WITH ALUMINUM FOIL AND BAKE @ 350 IN OVEN FOR
30 MINUTES

SERVE:

SERVE AS A HOT DIP WITH SCOOPS, CHIPS OR CELERY

If you or your guests enjoy a dish that is served warm and has a little spice with chicken and cheese then I don’t think you will be disappointed. This dish is good summer, fall, winter and, spring.

Enjoy!

Dennis L. Page

A Guilt Ridden Dream

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There are many messages wrapped in our dreams.

Reality and fiction become one in our dreams. In the quiet of the morning and sipping on my first cup of coffee the mind races in an attempt to analyze the movie that played the night before. 

Last evening I dreamt I worked in a luxurious office building which was also a plush hotel. I was an extremely successful businessperson and had a very important meeting to attend as I exited the elevator into the hotel lobby. The sun reached through the floor to ceiling windows and reflected off the marble floors when I spotted my mother standing at the hotel’s front desk. 

Mom’s hair was perfectly styled. She was wearing a fashionable light rose-colored dress with a matching jacket. She looked fabulous. I was so happy to see her and my heart was pounding with excitement. As I approached my mother it became clear things aren’t always the way they seem. 

You see, mom died over seven years ago from Alzheimer’s disease. She lived in North Carolina and I lived in New York. My wife Cathy and I had just finished closing the family’s summer home for the season and were driving up the quarter-mile private road when my cell phone rang. The doctor from mom’s nursing home was on the line informing me she was in failing health and no longer conscious. He wanted permission to cease feeding her intravenously. A cold numbness encircled me as I made the lethal decision. No child should have to make such a horrible choice.

The following day my daughters, Cathy and I all arrived at my mom’s nursing home. Mother’s brother and sister-in-law came from the other side of North Carolina to see her one more time. After spending several days visiting their grandmother my daughters had to return home due to employment obligations. I know how hard that decision was for them to make. Cathy kept in contact with her school, informing them of the situation and that mom was still holding on. 

Each day seemed like an eternity as I watched a woman who was once successful, educated, articulate, loving, accepting, and full of life slip deeper and deeper into the shadow of death. I was riddled with guilt watching her suffer for such a long time. 

A wave of nervous anxiety envelopes me whenever I’m in a funeral home, hospital or nursing home. I fail miserably when it comes to holding a vigil for hours on end and can’t wait to flee the uncomfortable surroundings. Even though I knew mom was dying it was still a struggle for me to sit in her room for long periods of time. On the sixth day, Cathy and I sat in solemn silence watching the procession of nursing home staff enter my mother’s room to say their goodbyes. The inevitable had finally arrived. It was the saddest day of my life.

Hollywood routinely glamorizes death, In actuality, it is hideous to observe the slow demise of someone you love. For all of those days we were with my mom she never moved a muscle. Mom never opened her eyes and her mouth was frozen open in the shape of an oval. 

Cathy stood on the left side of mom and I was on her right. We both laid our hands on hers as we stroked her forehead and arms. I leaned in and gave my mother a kiss on the cheek and whispered, “I love you, mom.” Cathy bent over mom, caressing her ever so gently and she whispered in her ear, “Rose…it’s time for you to go sleep with the angels.” Instantaneously something amazing happened. Mom had shown no signs of movement for several days, however, after Cathy spoke to her one tear formed and ever so softly rolled down her cheek. Our hearts skipped a beat. We stayed a while longer before retreating to our hotel room.

It was a little past midnight when the head nurse called to let me know my mother had just passed away. Mom died alone on the seventh day and that has been an internal struggle I have fought for several years.

I cannot describe how beautiful my mother looked in my dream. I hugged her and then noticed a far off daze in her eyes. I asked her how she got to where I worked and she couldn’t answer my question. I could tell by the expression she was there because she loved me and wanted to connect with me. I hugged mom one more time and explained the importance and urgency of the meeting I needed to attend. I went on to explain I wouldn’t be gone long and that she should wait for me.

I left my mom to attend to things I thought were so darn important. She stood there in my dream lost and alone. When I returned from my meeting the hotel staff had my mother on a sofa. She was disheveled and her nice coif was a matted mess. Mother didn’t recognize me anymore and she had crossed over to a point of no return. 

When I awoke and while I was figuring this dream out I logged into Facebook. Facebook brings up things we did on the exact date last year and years prior. Lo and behold an article I wrote exactly 7 years to the day popped up and it was titled, “Why I hate Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Yes, I am still consumed with guilt for not being with my mother in spite of the fact she passed away more than 7 years ago.

Dennis L. Page

 

 

A Slow Process​

I thought I would bring some of you up-to-date who have been following my post-op from the total parotidectomy I had done in August.

Recovery has been slow and painful. I had no idea I would be going through these conditions and certainly didn’t realize the length of recovery. I’ve always been a high energy and very restless person. I’ve been an insomniac for decades, but that isn’t the case anymore. Even being on steroids for the last year hasn’t helped to increase my energy although it has increased my weight.

For two years I was shuffled from one specialist to another. I couldn’t swallow and my tongue was swollen. I had numerous CT scans, specialized blood tests, and MRI’s. I was referred to an infectious disease doctor, an ENT, and then a rheumatologist. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, nodules in my neck, and that I no longer made saliva. I had four biopsies on the nodules in my neck. Trust me…these are not fun procedures. Thankfully, all came back showing the nodules benign. However, to prevent these from turning malignant it was highly recommended I have the salivary gland completely removed (parotidectomy). Knowing the risks involved in this tricky procedure (the surgeon works around the three major facial nerves to get to the gland) I eventually flew the surrender flag and consented to the procedure. I either made the right decision or I’m a glutton for punishment. Only time will tell which one is correct.

Being impatient is one of my major character flaws. Admittedly, I am my worst critic. I loathe sitting on the sidelines of life but have been resigned to the fact I don’t have the energy to do routine tasks. I’m plagued with constant fatigue and lethargy. I love to read, but the incurable dry eyes make reading for any length of time painful. Laugh and the world will laugh with you was my mantra. Unfortunately, due to partial paralysis, my face doesn’t want to cooperate in allowing me to have a full smile. I have swelling, redness, and numbness in my left cheek. There is limited mobility in turning my neck from left to right. I have limited feeling in my left upper lip, left nostril, and under the left eye. The left ear feels dead. When Cathy applies cream to my face it feels like a dog brush with 200 steel prongs stabbing my skin. Angst and depression were two things once foreign to me, but have now found a comfortable home inside my psyche. My wife and daughters keep reminding me the doctor said recovery would be a minimum of six months. Apparently, I have conveniently forgotten that particular doctor and patient conversation.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. After spending countless hours researching the internet I finally came across a blog which dates back at least 10 years and is filled with patients who were in the same spot I am now. I am finding out I’m not unique and that my signs and symptoms were commonplace in many who underwent the same procedure. There is a common theme among this group’s members. You see, many mentioned that a complete recovery from this major surgery took a full year.

So, I now realize how important it will be for me to practice patience over the next 10 months and let the whole healing process happen. Meanwhile, for the rest of my life, I’ll continue to take my three pills per day to help create saliva and use lubricating eyedrops every two hours.

I thought these golden years would be a lot more enjoyable. However, on a positive note, I’m still above ground.

Dennis L. Page