Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Welcome to the Jungle

 Welcome to the Jungle


“Welcome to the jungle.” I know that is a line from the Cincinnati Bengals as fans walk into the stadium. It is also the phrase I use when I visit a local specialty food market called Jungle Jim’s.


There is no other market like Jungle Jim’s around. I remember when my brother-in-law and sister-in-law visited us. They have lived all over the world. They assured us they “had seen it all.” They were prepared to be unimpressed. It didn’t happen. Hours later, we finally emerged from the store and they agreed they had never seen anything like the Jungle.

I love to go to Jungle Jim’s. So much so, I included it in my novella, Courtesy Turn, which was published in an Ohio anthology called From the Lake to the River.


But here is what I love most. The store isn’t about selling stuff to different people. It’s about sharing food with all people. Even the entrance is marked in numerous languages. 


If you read last week’s post, you know my grandson surprised me with a little “tour of Japan” through a season of snack foods on Mother’s Day. The real surprise was the fact that my twenty-year-old grandson stepped out of his comfort zone and tried foods he couldn’t pronounce coming from packages he couldn’t read…and he loved it!


(If you missed that post on being adventurous, you can click HERE to read it for yourself.)


One cracker-type snack filled with a red bean paste was particularly delicious. I decided to buy more of those and surprise Joshua. Where do you go for that? Jungle Jims.

A few of the
Japanese Snacks
at  the Jungle!

The Jungle is unique. It is both a grocery store and an international market. And more. Jungle Jim’s is so much a part of Cincinnati I sometimes take it for granted. So I here is an abbreviated tour of the Jungle this week. 


Let’s start with the “more.” It may be for foodies, but there is certainly an entertainment vibe. Jungle animals and sounds greet you. Inside, animated characters entertain passersby. There is a cooking school where you can learn to prepare a wide variety of foods.


Even the bathrooms won an award. Seriously. 

The port-a-potty is a ruse.
It opens to an award winning bathroom.

All  displays are colorful and the inventory ranges from greenhouse plants and floral arrangements to housewares, pet supplies, groceries, bakery items, a meat market, vegetables and fruits from around the world, fresh seafood and fish (actually swimming in the tanks), toiletries, toys, books, “as seen on TV” items, candy, health food (Notice how I put those next to each other?) frozen foods…everything. 


There are aisles and aisles of spices, canned goods, candies, and baking supplies from nations I've never visited.


This post was never intended as an advertisement for a great local market in Fairfield, Ohio. 

It is simply this: 


Each time I visit the store, I am reminded of how diverse the United States is in terms of ethnicity and how alike we are when we come together for a meal.


Gathering around a banquet table set for the world…welcome to the Jungle.

Want to know more? Here's a link to a YouTube video with Jungle Jim himself:


And a few more pics.

Yes, this is Jungle Jim, himself.


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Chasing and Embracing Adventure

 Adventure: Chasing or Embracing?


I’ve often been told I am an adventurous person. Curious. I don’t think of myself that way. I don’t back away from new experiences. Mostly. But I don’t constantly seek them out, either. 


I decided there are two types of people in the adventurous category: Chasers and Embracers. We won’t talk about the third category of people whose idea of adventure is trying mustard instead of ketchup on a hamburger once. Just once.


To my way of thinking, Chasers are those who climb a mountain then seek one that is higher. They go on to find and climb another one more treacherous to challenge them. They need to increase the challenge and up the danger levels to get that euphoric reaction they desire. It’s akin to an emotional “high.”


I am not a “Chaser.”


I enjoy trying new things even though I may not have been looking for them. Meeting new people, traveling, eating new foods, and trying new activities. Those may challenge me. Stretch me. Cause me to see the world differently. Even when I have to be coaxed to “jump in the deep end,” so to speak, I do it. Generally, I find those experiences gratifying.


I am an “Embracer.” 


Tom and I raised three Embracers. Allison, Danielle, and Kendall learned early on to take on new challenges as opportunities. They all three enjoy meeting new people, trying new experiences, and tasting new foods. They love people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and languages. 


This week we celebrated Mother’s Day. Flowers and candy were displayed in all the stores. I went to church with my mom and cooked our midday meal. My daughter in Wisconsin had given me a pot of flowers to plant. I took a walk with my youngest to recognize the day…and get some exercise.


Then, my oldest daughter showed up with her family. My son-in-law planted a blackberry bush in my back yard. It was a sweet day. But the real surprise came from my oldest grandson, Joshua.


Joshua ordered a box of Japanese snacks on the internet. 


First you need to understand one important fact. When I am talking about food and Joshua, I am usually (probably nine times out of ten) making a reference to mac and cheese. I have never known this man-child to be adventurous in the food department. Never.


Yet here we were, sitting out on the deck sampling snacks from halfway around the world. The box he ordered was called the “Seasons of Japan.” Fortunately, it came with a guidebook because we couldn’t read the labels.


We tried everything. Like anything else, we liked some better than others. But the most important piece was WE TRIED IT ALL. 

Becoming an adventurous person? Maybe that “Embracer” thing isn’t something you learn. Maybe it is in the genes after all. 

A few of the snacks we enjoyed.
Check out BOKKSU for more.


What have you done that others consider adventurous?


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Down and Dirty

Getting Down and Dirty


Probably not what you think. 


Here in southwestern Ohio we’ve had a most unusual spring season. It will be sunny and warm one day and cloudy and rainy the next. We’ve had several days in a row of what I call “short sleeve” weather followed by a blast of cold complete with a smattering of snow or frost. 

The man who mows my lawn has to sandwich the trimmings between continually shifting wet and dry weather patterns.  It’s crazy.


I’m a warm weather kind of girl, so I wake up to sunshine smiling and singing. I set about weeding the flowerbeds and browsing the plants at my local Lowes store. I spray the honeysuckle… a never-ending battle…and trim the bushes.


Then it turns cold or rainy (or both) again and I’m stuck inside staring at the calendar. 

I shouldn’t be surprised. Rarely in the past have I planted a garden before the first of May.  I do, however, usually have the ground ready and seedlings growing and waiting inside the house to be transplanted. Not this year. But I keep trying.


I’ve always loved playing in the dirt. When my best friend, Nicky, and I were young we attempted to dig a hole to China. Nick’s brother told us we could do it so we tried. 


On the farm, I played with toy trucks and tractors, making roads to travel and fields to cultivate in the dirt beside the driveway. I sifted through dirt by the creek, certain I would one day find gold.


Dirt is good stuff. It’s the kind of stuff fully equipped to grow vegetables or dreams. Take your pick.


This past weekend, my middle daughter and two of her kiddos came for a visit. The weather was beautiful. We headed outside so the children could play. My mom, daughter, and I surveyed the flowerbeds and fencerow. My youngest grandson tagged along.


As we talked we pulled a weed or two. I showed Danielle some rotting logs in the back I hoped to reposition. “Once these are cleared,” I said as a kicked one of the logs, “I’ll be able to plant a garden here.”


The log was soft. The ever-changing weather had managed to further the decay of the logs and stumps in my path. I retrieved a shovel from the shed and started chipping away at the rotting wood.


Soon, my daughter and mother were caught up in the “mostly-fun but actually, work” mode of whittling down the remaining woodpile.


“What rich soil,” my mother said. “This will make a wonderful garden!”


As we worked, my youngest grandson hopped into the thick of it all. He dug in the dirt with his hands, unearthing worms and centipedes and what he described as “the biggest beetle ever.”


Soon…when the rain stops…I’ll be planting my garden. I’ll likely plant tomatoes and peppers. I may plant potatoes and onions. I like beans and cucumbers. I don’t know for sure what all I’ll plant, but as I watched Nathanael play in the dirt, I was reminded of this simple truth: 


Every Living Thing Needs Dirt, Water, and Sunshine to Grow...

So Do Dreams



Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Researcher, Educator, Writer, Survivor

 Researcher, Educator, Writer, Survivor

I am beginning this post with my Author’s Note. 

I am not a physician by training nor trade. I am a researcher, an educator, and a writer.


The Researcher in Me:

Last week I wrote how my own experience with what may be called COVID “Brain Fog” offered me new insight on how people experiencing dementia may feel. (If you missed that one you can read it HERE.)


My inexplicable memory loss troubled me. Why was it I couldn’t remember days and months? I started a bit of research. Because I am no longer at the university, my initial research took the form of reading numerous articles on-line. I know enough to not trust everything everyone claims, so I checked the credentials of the authors, the reliability of the sources, and scrutinized the method for collecting the data. 


What did my cursory research reveal? There is substantial evidence that some medications alone can cause the mind to muddle. Put a few of them together and you have the ingredients for a perfect storm…or in this case, a perfect “fog” to roll in. Some of the meds are prescribed while others are available over the counter at the local pharmacy.


I’m not on any prescription drugs, but when COVID hit my system, I took both an antihistamine and ibuprofen. I also took cold and flu medicine at night to help me sleep. Some of the literature suggests any of these alone can cause a temporary confused state of mind. 


The Educator in Me

 Yeah, well, that’s why I’m offering this post. I am not saying this is true for everyone, but it is worth considering. And researching.


The Writer in Me

I am in the throes of crafting a novel where the main character’s mother is experiencing moments of forgetfulness.  I used my own illness and research experience to help Katharine (“Kat”) demonstrate empathy for her mom. Here’s a brief (read “condensed”) excerpt from my latest manuscript. In this scene my main character and her mother, Margaret, known as Mimi in the family, are working on a jigsaw puzzle together. Kat broaches the subject of forgetfulness with her mom. 


“Mimi, remember when I had COVID?”

“Oh, do I ever! That was the longest two weeks of my life. I thought we’d all dodged the bullet but here I was sitting at home and not able to come take care of you. You’re a mom, so you know how hard that was for me.”

Kat smiled and scooted closer to her mother. “I do. But mom, remember the other day, how you were talking about sometimes getting a little muddled in your thinking? I was thinking about that on my way home.

“Do you remember when Matt drove you over to the house the week or so after my quarantine ended and I was deemed ‘safe’?”

Margaret took her daughter’s hand and patted it. “I remember. It filled my heart to lay eyes on you. To know you were okay.”

“Mom, I honestly didn’t remember what day or even what month it was right then and there. I was struggling. I tried to figure it out. 

“You had been sick, honey.”

“I’d been declared well for more than a week.” 

Mimi leaned back in her chair. “What are you saying?”

Kat drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I think that day I had a glimpse of what grandma felt when she knew something but couldn’t remember exactly what it was.”

Mimi studied her daughter. “You think I have dementia like my mother?”

Kat laughed. “Not at all. Unless I do, too. All I know is that the mind is a curious organ. I think different things can play tricks on us.” 

Kat turned in her chair to face her mother.     “Maybe sometimes we decide what is going on based on a person’s age. We blame COVID for me getting rattled and dementia for grandma. Who knows? Maybe there was something else going on in her body.”

“So you think when I forget things it may not be my age?”

“Or maybe a little bit of your age and a whole lot of something else. I mean, we do know other parts of our bodies slow a bit as we age. Why not our brains?

“I don’t have the answers, Mom. I just think it’s worth mulling over, though. Oh, look, here’s that missing part of the edge.”

“Finally!” Mimi exclaimed as Kat fitted the piece in to complete the outside frame of the puzzle. “Once you have the straight edges everything else will fall into place.”


Now isn’t that true? Maybe if we can get a handle on the straight edges, we’ll all be a bit healthier and happier.



Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Shadows of Light Through the Fog

Shadows of Light Peeking Through the Fog

My maternal grandmother had dementia. It was difficult. I watched as she slowly withdrew from family gatherings. She knew her limitations. It disturbed her. It pained me. 


Once as the family gathered in her living room, I joined Grandma in the kitchen. She admitted to me she didn’t know some of the people in the room. I told her to sit by me and if she wasn’t sure of someone’s identity, I’d tell her. It worked. 


 I have gained new insight into what she likely felt.


If you are one of my readers, you know I recently recovered from COVID.


I’ve heard a number of people speak of COVID “Fog” or COVID “Memory”.  That fog is real. That memory, or rather lack of memory is unsettling. 


Here’s an example:


 A couple of weeks ago, my oldest grandson and my mother came to my house. I was past the contagious stage and enjoyed chatting with both of them. At one point, my mother commented on a container of pansies on my kitchen counter. 

“Where did you get the pretty flowers?” she asked


I wracked my brain. “Uh…I think Allison gave me those for my birthday,” I said.


My mother and grandson exchanged looks. My mother was the first to speak. “Your birthday is in May.”


I tried to wrap my head around that. “Oh, that’s right. Maybe they were for Mother’s Day or Easter,” I said. Too bad I didn’t realize it was the first day in April. I could have maybe pulled it off as an April Fool’s joke.


“Uh, Doll,” Joshua ventured. “Easter and Mother’s Day aren’t here yet.” (And yes, my grandchildren call me Doll.)


I was confused. We talked of something else, giving me a brain break. Finally, I remembered where I got the flowers. I interrupted the conversation. “I remember now,” I told them. “My neighbor gave me the flowers as a thank-you.” 


And she did. I can’t help but wonder if they believed me, though. 


I was experiencing an inexplicable memory loss. And it wasn’t that I simply didn’t remember who gave me the flowers, the calendar in my head was jumbled as well. 


Later, as the image of my sweet and loving grandmother popped up on my digital photo frame, tears came to my eyes. I finally understood the sort of fear and pain she experienced as she began to realize her memory was failing her.


It’s bad enough to be confused or to not remember something, but to know you are doing it and can’t control it is as I said, unsettling.


Because of my grandmother, I have always been tender to those with dementia, but now I have new insight. I have a new respect for the battle they fight on a daily basis. They fight a battle within… wrestling to remember people and events… a daily struggle to organize moments and language and push through an unwanted fog. 


They are warriors.


Though I hope this will be my final blog post that even has the word COVID in it, I pray my appreciation for all with dementia will continue to grow. 

And who knows? Maybe as researchers study more about COVID “fog” there will be a breakthrough in addressing dementia.

Can You Find It?

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Post COVID: Retraining the Mind and Body

Post COVID:  Retraining The Mind and Body


I never intended to offer multiple blog posts on dealing with COVID-19. Of course I never intended to contract COVID in the first place. But here I am offering you a fourth post on dealing with the virus. It is, of course, my perspective but from reader responses, I know sharing my experiences has helped a few people. 


If you read my earlier posts, you know that I tested positive for COVID on March 20. I quarantined for ten days and continued to wear a mask afterward. I wore the mask for the comfort of others. I was feeing stronger every day. I was feeling so good I decided to go to the beach as planned. (I called it Saltwater Therapy.)


On Day 18 after testing positive, I hit a wall. I was lethargic. I felt overwhelmed. I tossed and turned at night. And I coughed. 


Let’s start there: With the cough. The COVID cough for me has not been what I would call a productive cough. Usually, I cough because of congestion or a tickle in my throat. Now I cough for seemingly no reason. It just happens. If I cough too much my throat hurts. 


I wasn’t home. I was in South Carolina. I started spontaneously coughing. I knew I had to do something. 


A sip of water? Nope. 

A cough drop? Didn’t help.

Hot drink? Cold drink? Nothing tamed the cough. 


I threw my hands out as if to stop traffic. “Stop coughing,” I said out loud.  “You don’t need to cough. It is not a productive cough. Don’t do it.”


And it worked. A little mind over matter? Perhaps. Will it work for everyone? I have no clue. For me it continues to help. I only share my experience in hopes of helping at least one other person.


Learning that I could control my cough gave me hope that perhaps I could regain control over other areas in my Life-After-COVID existence.


I was at the beach. I was finally feeling better. So what made me so restless and lethargic?


I eliminated the chips and snack foods. I limited my root beer (read: sugar) intake. And for those of you who know me, limiting my root beer is a tough one.


Next I put myself on a rigid eating schedule. I ate breakfast at 9:00 am, lunch at noon, and dinner at 5:00. I did not snack after dinner. If I thought I was hungry, I drank a glass of water. I know from past experiences that often when I think I’m hungry, I’m actually thirsty.


I went to bed at a decent hour and although I am not an advocate of watching television in bed, I turned on the television, found something to watch and went to sleep. The dialogue coming from the TV engaged my brain enough I didn’t think about…well, anything else. It worked. I became drowsy and most of the time, fell asleep even as I clicked the off button on the remote.



Healthy diet.

Deliberate routines. 



Most will argue these are healthy habits all the time. They would be right. The thing is, COVID disrupted my thinking.Healthy habits flew out the window when COVID flew in. Managing my emotional, mental, and physical health to overcome the side effects of COVID requires…at least for me…conscious and daily effort. 


I’m sure there are many other strategies people have employed to cope with the virus. If you’ve had experiences dealing with the side effects of COVID, I would love to have you share them here. We are all in this together.










Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Breathe Deep

 Breathe Deep: Saltwater Therapy for …Anything


Although I was born in Ohio, I have always thought of myself as a Florida girl. All of those events that a person experiences, those “rites of passage” from childhood to adulthood, took place in or around Tampa, Florida.


I graduated from high school in Florida (Go Chamberlain!). 

I got my driver’s license in Florida. 

I had my first date in Florida. And last.

I got married in Florida.

I graduated from college in Florida.

My two oldest daughters were born in Florida.


I am a Florida girl.


As such, I understand the healing power of sunshine and saltwater. 


Maybe that’s why I was reluctant to reschedule my trip to South Carolina so soon after my bout with COVID. I try to get to the condo for a week or two before the vacation season starts. I like to get things ready for summer guests.


While in South Carolina, the words of my late husband came to me. “Breathe deep.”


“Breathe deep” was one of Tom’s Go-To statements. 


You fell on the sidewalk and skinned your knee? “Breathe deep.”

You fell on the ski slope and broke your knee? “Breathe deep.”


Anxious about a situation? “Breathe deep.”

Facing a problem at school or work? “Breathe deep.”


Facing a crisis in writing? “ Breathe deep.”

Having a baby? “Breathe deep.”


Tom’s words of wisdom washed over me the second or third morning of my stay in Myrtle Beach. They were words to calm and words to heal. So as I stood on the balcony watching the sunrise over the ocean, I closed my eyes and did my best to “breathe deep.” 


And as it turns out, you don’t need to actually swim in the saltwater to redeem the healing benefits of the salt air. COVID hit me hard. Breathing has been a chore. Yet with each day on the beach I am feeling stronger and more confident. 


The water may be a bit too nippy for swimming, but dipping my toes in the rolling surf or letting a runaway wave level off and creep up on the sand to lick at my feet makes me laugh. And laughter is almost always good for the soul. 



Saltwater, salt air, and sunshine is good therapy for…well…anything. Breathe deep. I should know. I’m a Florida girl.

Author's Note: On day 10 of my quarantine, a friend came to my house. I masked up and we took a walk in my neighborhood. It was a short walk, but taxing on my oxygen deprived body. I had to stop several times. I pressed on, but not to the point of exhaustion. That night I slept soundly. I woke up feeling stronger. I attribute that to getting my lungs working again. I am certainly not an expert on COVID. I share my personal experiences in the hope that others will find help and encouragement. Also, if you want that "saltwater effect" and can't get near the ocean, you may want to try a saline nasal spray you can find at your local pharmacy. Use as directed.  

If you missed the first two COVID entries, I Have Covid and The COVID-19 "To Do" List, you will find them here on A Novel Creation. I look forward to hearing from you.