Notes from a Jersey Girl

by Lisa G Westheimer


It’s a Month Until the Election and My Stomach is in a Knot



I’ve been thinking alot about a friend of mine lately, trying to take a page from her book.  She is one of those rare souls who is consistently serene and cheerful.  We had a conversation one day where she told me that when she can’t sleep she tunes into late-night call-in radio stations and listens to people she would never meet, who don’t share her same ideals and values.  Think truckers calling in on the topic of UFO’s or people focused on conspiracy theories and radical politics.  Personally, I would think that listening to a program that expounds values radically opposed to my own would give me insomnia or at least cause me to grind my teeth.  She, on the other hand, thinks of it more as a way to understand people different than her, which she finds interesting and calming.  Ok.

I’m sure most Americans my age will agree with me that this election cycle is one of the most tense and provocative in our lifetimes.  No matter which party we support and which candidate we have chosen to vote for, this is a process hard to watch, hard to wade through and hard to stomach.  Both sides feel they are making history by supporting their candidate and are vehemently opposed to the other as a person and as a politician.  Discourse has deteriorated into insult hurling matches; debates have devolved into manure slinging events.  There is very little informed policy substance being discussed.  Instead we listen to what awfulness can be dredged up from the past and accusations based on fuzzy facts.  Nothing seems to be discussed, it’s more disgust than discuss.

Which brings me back to my very serene and cheerful friend.  I want to be like her.  I want to be able to accept that people have opposite views than me and still be friends with them.  I want to have discussions with people who have opinions contrary to mine in a civilized manner.  I’m through screaming and turning purple when I hear someone repeat a “fact” about my candidate that they heard on the radio or read on Face Book that is not true.

I work with someone one day a week, I will refer to this person as “they.”  They will be voting in their very first election this November.  They are extremely passionate about the candidate running against mine.  They go to rallies and come back energized.  They pepper conversation with sound bites from this candidate.  At first I found this extremely provocative.  I felt like I had to counter every single thing they said in support of my candidate.  I must say I was not polite or serene about it either.  At one point I heard someone screaming and realized it was me.

Then I looked.  I looked at them and realized my words were hurting them.  I realized that this election, their first, was more than just any election, it was a huge turning point in life for them.  They said that by voting for this candidate they thought they were going to make history.  I told them that by voting for my candidate I thought I was making history too.  The light bulb went off.  We had something in common.  We just were coming about it from opposite ends of the spectrum.

What started as horrible weekly arguments now have turned into talks about how much we love our country and want the best for it.  That is our common ground.  This I suppose too, is my collective common ground with all Americans who are completely passionate about this election.  We are all Americans.  We all love our country.  We all want what’s best for it. We just have opposite ideas of what is best for it.  We all want to make history.  We just have different definitions of what history we are trying to make.  Things are now much better between us, and we can really talk about the candidates.  We ask each other questions and actually listen to what each other is saying.  There’s a large age difference between us and I think both of us are getting a better understanding of our perspectives and why we like the candidate we do.  As a result, they now show me pictures of the rallies they go to, and we enjoy watching Jimmy Fallon and SNL election skits together.

Maybe, maybe oh I hope and pray, we as American citizens, left to our own devices, will begin to feel united, will again try to work with each other, to listen, to accept.  Maybe someday all this anger will go away or at least get channeled into working together to find solutions, with or without politicians, that blend our values so that there are no winners or losers, there are just people compromising to make something that may even be better than they had hoped to begin with.

You can call me a fool or a dreamer, but I don’t care.  I’m just an American who loves her country.  On September 11, 2001, I jumped on the last train headed towards the disaster instead of the train that would have taken me home.  I realized at that moment, that I was like my father and my uncles, my grandfather and great-uncles, and my great-grandfathers.  I was an American patriot and my country needed me and I was going to do whatever I could to help because I love it so much.  Now it seems I need to have the same bravery I mustered on that day.  I will vote and I will be civilized about it, and I will be brave, for in this case being brave means reaching out to those who don’t agree with me to find common ground.


Riki Tiki Riley: Rudyard Kipling Essex County Style


The kitchen garden in all its spring glory. The boxwood in the foreground is where Bushy and Jerry nest every year. The one in the background to the right is where Robbie the robin is staking his claim.

It is now spring and love is in the air in our gardens.  All creatures of fur and feather seem to be mating, making nests, settling down as couples.  My kitchen garden seems to be the hot location for birds, our boxwoods prime real estate for nests.  There is a little grey bird that lives in our boxwood all year long.  I named her Bushy. She was very quiet until she got married to a similar grey bird I named Jerry, because when she calls to him she does so at the top of her lungs in her best Jerry Lewis imitation:  “Jehreeee! (pause)   JEhree!  (pause)  JEHREEE! (screech!)”  In keeping with the male gender of all species great and small, Jerry merely responds with Jersey accented bird-like grunts, sometimes they sound like a very tired “Yeah?”


Bushy singing her little heart out on the top of her bush.


Bushy and Jerry’s nest in the boxwood. Needs some spring cleaning and sprucing up.

2 years ago, Bushy and Jerry had a son who I named Eric, as Bushy calls to him in a slightly different way that sounds just like the name Eric:  “Errrrric!  Errrrrrrriiiiiiic!”  Being a kid, Eric would get in trouble from time to time.  One day I heard a great commotion outside, all the way inside the house.  Bushy was going crazy.  She was on top of her bush screaming Jerry’s name over and over.  I went outside to see what was the matter.  By the time I got out there, Jerry was perched on top of the garden fence, flapping his wings like mad, looking down on the ground.  Bushy looked at Jerry.  “JEHREEEEE!” she screeched.  Jerry did a dance and screamed “ERRRRRRIC!!!”  Bushy joined in horror, “ERRRIIIIIIICCCCC!!!”  I looked where they were both looking and there was Eric, pecking around in the impatiens, like all teenagers, oblivious to his parents’ aggitation.  Sneaking up on him was my cat Riley (cue the theme to the movie “Jaws.”)   Uh-oh.


Riley, the villain of the story.

Jerry and Bushy were besides themselves, hopping on their perches, wings all a-flap, screaming Eric’s name over and over as Riley crept up on what else, but cat’s feet.  Just before things got out of hand I scooped Riley up and in a blur of flapping wings Eric flew inside the bush followed by Jerry and Bushy.  I can only assume a huge avian time-out was in order.

Bushy seems to be the only bird intrepid enough to remain in the boxwood for winter, as she leads a silent solitary existence bush-side, only emerging long enough to dust snow off the leaves.  Jerry is not cut from the same hardy cloth, he vacates to parts unknown (maybe he goes to Florida for winter or on the comedy circuit in Las Vegas.)  Eric must be in college as he flew the coop last year never to return, not even on Mother’s Day.

I know it’s spring now  because Jerry has returned.   Bushy is all happy about it.  For the past week I have been serenaded daily by her from sun up to sundown as she sits singing her little heart out on top of the bush.  Yesterday she sang a merry tune all the while adding leaves and twigs to her nest in the bush.  While this scene of happy domesticity is playing out, Jerry is on a mission- to thwart Robbie the robin who is building a nest in the bush next door from encroaching on his territory.  Robbie’s no slouch, he can dive bomb like the best of them and does so with gusto at Jerry.  That makes him nuts.


Robbie on the attack, defending is nest in the boxwood next to Bushy and Jerry’s bush.

Soon enough things will settle down in more of a quiet routine.  Bushy will take to her nest, presumably to incubate eggs, the days will get longer, hot and languid.  Flowers will bloom and die, other plants will grow and bloom.  Bees will buzz and birds will sing at less volume and only in the cool of the early morning and late evening.  But for now I adore being serenaded from sun up to sundown by my kitchen garden dweller Bushy.


Supervising the strawberry pot.


All is Now Right with the World: Buddy and Missy Return


The magical bond between a girl and her horse…

Every since I was 4 I wanted to be a cowgirl and a potter.   My grandmother used to dress me in a cowgirl outfit.  It was green and white fake leather with tooling and fringe, and I had a matching pair of white cowgirl boots, a little straw cowboy hat with elastic under the chin, even a matching white gun belt with little plastic six shooters.  I had a Mister Ed talking puppet and in the summer I had an inflatable ring in the shape of a horse to “ride” around the shallow end of the salt water pool in Spring Lake where my aunt and uncle had a membership.

Next to Mr. Ed, Gumby and Pokey was my second favorite TV show at the time, “He was once a little green ball of clay” was the opening line of the theme song AND Gumby’s side kick was Pokey, a HORSE!  I think it was watching those episodes that caused me to put an lp record on top of my mother’s juicer and try to use it as a pottery wheel (boy did I catch hell for THAT!)

Anyway, it took this Jersey Girl 43 years to live her dream of having a pottery studio on premises and a horse in the yard, but better late than never.  Aside from being perpetually sore, there’s something about having a horse on site I find very calming.  My husband says he likes me better when the horse is around.


It doesn’t get better than this for me: raku firing next to the manure dumpster while the horses eat their breakfast


Are you done firing yet Mom? I want to go for a ride!

I own neither Buddy nor Missy.  Both are on “free lease” which is sort of like leasing a car- I have to pay for everything in terms of their care and maintenance but my name isn’t on the title of either of them.  Acquiring Buddy is a story left to another post as it’s a long one.  In short form I got him when someone inherited him unexpectedly and didn’t have room for him.  I got Missy because I sent Buddy away for the winter the first year I had him and they put him with Missy and they are now so herd bound they are like an old married couple: they bicker all day long but go to pieces if separated.

When I first got Buddy I had more money than brains and could have been manager of the Clueless Department of Equine Care, but I managed.  We’ve been together 8 years now.  He and Missy split their time between here and Hunters Little Farm in Frankford, NJ, about 50 miles northwest of here.


Missy with her “real” Mommy, Sheila Hunter of Hunter’s Little Farm in Frankford, NJ

It’s easy to decide when to send them to Sheila’s for winter:  when the water hose freezes.  I’m a Jersey Girl, not Gunga Din and it’s a long walk from the house to the barns, especially lugging a the 5 buckets full of water it takes to fill the horse tub.  It’s not hard on the horse to endure winter in my yard, but it sure is hard on this human.  I may be horse crazy, but I’m not stupid.


Waiting a little too long to ship Buddy off. The look on my face says it all.

It’s hard to figure out exactly when it’s the right time for them to come home.  Too early and I might get caught out lugging water in a spring snow.  Too late and the summer’s half gone.  Then there’s mud season and it’s Siamese twin- shedding season to slog through.  The only thing worse than being rolled in mud is being rolled in mud then coated in horse hair.  Last year we traveled so much in spring they didn’t return until after the 4th of July.  THAT made the human stir crazy.

But this year the stars aligned enough for them to come home the first week of May- that sweet spot just after the mud/shed season and the hot noisy 4th of July.  I try to have them here so they’re settled in well before the 4th of July or just after, as it seems that every single town around our house is hell bent on blowing up the sky with fireworks that night in sequential order so they last for hours and seem to come from all directions.  The 2 of them have heart attacks and I’m out there in the paddocks having one with them as they run around.

But pyrotechnics aside, it’s lovely having them here.  I love to feed them, manage their care, clean up after them, brush them, graze them, and tinker around in the barn.  The barn seems to have taken the place of my office, I love organizing it.


Step into my office where everything is neat and tidy

Riding him here is fantastic.  We go for rides in the field and bumble along over poles and jumps (neither of us are any good at it.)  On weekends we hack down the street and across the lawn of Thomas and Mina Edison’s home, Glenmont, to get to the woods.  Glenmont is part of the National Park Service.  We do a loop that takes about an hour, through the woods, around the pond, across a creek then a tiny canter up a steep hill (look out for the bush at the top!)  Along the way we meet many people.  Buddy is a self appointed ambassador of Glenmont, as he will always stop and bat his eyes charmingly, pose for photos and put his nose down (even through car windows!) for a pat.  I love this as many of the children who visit the park have never seen a horse up close and to see their faces light up when they touch his ultra soft nose delights me to no end.  Yes, life is good here at home, but even better now that Buddy and Missy are here.


Buddy is a shameless poser


Out for a hack on the road at Glenmont



Easter Reveries


I’m sure I’m not the only one, but sometimes Easter fills me with nostalgia.  I get a little sad this time of  year, sadness being the appropriate feeling during Lent, especially during Holy Week, but it’s supposed to climax on Good Friday and be gone after Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night.  But for me, it lasts a good long while.  I miss the way Easter used to be celebrated when I was little.  The way we celebrated was full of tradition and a reflection of our familiar cultures of origin.  I woke up in the morning and found an Easter basket full of candy on the dining room table, which included green plastic “Easter grass” and hand molded chocolate covered coconut eggs wrapped in waxed paper that a friend of my mother made, along with the requisite hollow chocolate bunny, jelly beans and malted eggs.  I got all dressed up in a special outfit that was so full of starch it scratched and wore gleaming patent leather shoes that pinched and were slippery. There was always a little matching bag and patterned leotards where the crotch stopped about 2 inches above my knees.  I was sternly warned under penalty of death to stay clean the entire day and act like a lady lest the death ray stare be deployed.  Thus adorned we went to a church filled with everyone else in their special outfits, then we jumped in our cars and went visiting relatives.  If I was good I was allowed to take my Easter basket with me.


Struffoli, honey coated pastry pulls studded with colorful candies

We visited both Italian and Polish relatives that day.  In Bloomfield I feasted on stuffed shells, lamb, nougat candy studded with hazel nuts with a thin wafer coating that stuck to my teeth and my hands got sticky from eating the honey coated struffoli pastry that was pinched off the mound with my fingers.  There would be another Easter basket and a brand new paper or silver dollar pressed into my hand.  In Garfield I ran around Babcia’s yard with my cousins hunting for Easter eggs that she hid in her magical garden.  One year I was so little I couldn’t find anything and cried until she led me to the strawberry patch and produced a plastic egg filled with a fresh flower.  I’m sure she put it there just for me to find.  Then we ate rice cake that Aunt Mary made, firm, cold, moist and not too sweet, to balance the melon balls we scooped out of a watermelon carved to look like a basket.  And oh there was Aunt Verne’s Crown Jewel cake:  an amalgam of whipped cream and cubes of colorful jello held in place by lady fingers!


Peter Cottontail delivers! Goodies waiting for special Easter Sunday guests


Not to sound too old and cranky, but today it’s all different.  Easter is usually celebrated at my house with my friends.  All grandparents, aunts, uncles and Babcia are gone.  Cousins are scattered far and wide as well as nieces and nephews and their little ones.  I’m usually the only Catholic on the premises the entire day.  I used to try to make dinner that reflected my favorite dishes from both sides of the family, but this one is lactose intolerant; that one’s a vegan, so and so is gluten free, so why bother?  Now the only food anchoring the table representing the past is lamb,  (can we talk?  I can’t stand lamb) and pot luck everything else.  I’ve tried to start some traditions:  egg hunts, croquet in the courtyard, a specialty drink or food for the occasion, but nothing seems to have taken hold, and anytime I plan something outdoors it rains, you can set your watch to it!


Easter chicks, flower and bunny salt and pepper shakers grace the dining room table



While egg and fertility themed S & P’s hang out in the living room

But let’s not get completely maudlin here!  Easter will be filled this year with friends both old and new, all who said, “what can I bring?” the moment they were invited.  Included in the day will be teens I can slip some money to and children who delight in chocolate bunnies tucked into plastic Easter grass and when all else fails, we can break out the Peeps!  I dragged out all my egg, flower, bunny and Easter themed salt and pepper shakers and put them all over the house.  I may even take down the winter curtains and put up the white ones and lay out some family linens.  I hear it may be sunny so croquet may be played.  There’s Mel, the new puppy in residence to steal the croquet balls and knock over the food table as he enjoys his first party and first Easter with us.  Easter is about overcoming loss and sadness and discovering the love that surrounds us every day that we just don’t take the time to look for until it springs up and blooms bright like a daffodil out of the warming spring ground.


It’s beginning to look alot like Easter at the old homestead!

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A New Chapter in My Adventures with Petey

Looking smart while keeping warm, supervising the horses while they graze.

Looking smart while keeping warm, supervising the horses while they graze.

As any dog owner knows, the worst part of owning one is that you tend to outlive them.  I have had a dog in my life (always a beagle) since I was 4 years old.  I think the longest I’ve gone without one was a year, the shortest, 3 days.  My latest dog, a field hound named Petey is a rescue.  We think he’s 9 or 10.  We think he’s a mix of beagle and blue tick hound.  He is 100% hunting dog.  Like any hunting dog living a domestic life, he’s a big ball of trouble and fun.  Petey gets into everything.  He is a big talker, very opinionated, food motivated, and loves to bury things in the yard in particular very expensive brand new toys, or anything of mine that is not nailed down, usually to prove a point.  He’s my jogging buddy, mountain bike companion, beach walking and swimming partner, varmint hunter and self appointed horse guardian.  Anyone who has walked by our field, especially when the horses are grazing have had their wits scared out of them (among other things) by his charging the fence line roaring like a lion.  He also is my biggest garden pest.  He’s eaten all the tomatoes, dug up the carrots and I have not had enough raspberries or blueberries stay on the bushes long enough for me to gather enough for jam.  I had to put an invisible fence around my veggie patch to keep him out of it.  He gorges on the apples that fall from the trees and gets drunk by digging up the fermented crab apples from under the snow.

But this year, sadly, what began as a limp on a jog on Cape Cod in September, progressed to full blown aggressive soft tissue cancer in December.  We are now in hospice mode, enjoying every good health moment, battling every painful crisis setback, managing pain and nutrition and having as many adventures as we still can.  Out of all the dogs I have had in my life, Petey is the fighter.  He needs to do things on his terms.  And I hope to be able to fulfill my obligation as his steward and thumbs to see he lives the rest of his days his way in as enjoyable way as possible.

Taking Mommy on a walk in the woods on his favorite trail.

Taking Mommy on a walk in the woods on his favorite trail.

Each week I send Petey’s vet Dr. Lewis of Eagle Rock Vet Hospital an update.  I try to make them as upbeat as possible.  Petey has gone from an eating machine on the scale of a great white shark to a food refuser rivaling the most finicky feline.  Every day a different food is jettisoned and we play the game, “what will Petey eat today?”  One day it’s cottage cheese, the next bacon, smoked turkey, dry kibble soaked in broth, maple glazed ham.  There’s no rhyme or reason, just frustration as I try to get his meds in him.  He’s also endured some very painful stomach spasms that just do him in.

The onset of a stomach spasm episode.

The onset of a stomach spasm episode.

Wiped out from the episode.

Wiped out from the episode.

Rallying in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Rallying in the bottom of the 9th inning.

But after each episode he bounces back.  The fact that he’s young is a heart break, but also a bonus as he’s still strong and feisty.  He’s managed to maintain his weight.  I’ve surmised that since he’s a hunting dog, his body is geared to be in motion, and when at rest either eating or sleeping, so I try to maintain an exercise regimen.  We go for walks but he dictates the length and direction.  I don’t pull him as there’s a tumor deforming one leg and shoulder, poor guy, but he alternates between a walk and a trot and seems to follow our old short jogging route, so away we go!

Every time I count him out he rallies.  This week he has gone from refusing all food and drink and lying on his side with his eyes crossed and very labored breathing to popping up for walks, eating anything we put in front of him, getting up and going to his water bowl and drinking by choice, going in and out the doggie door, resuming his quest to kill the garbage man (he steals the good smelly stuff, TWICE A WEEK!) and most unbelievable of all, no longer limps at the walk, the tumor greatly diminished in size!

We can only hypothesize that the meds he’s on are taking effect.  He’s on Tramadol, 1 pill 3 or 4 times a day depending on his discomfort, Quellin twice a day and artemesinan once a day.  The artemesinan is supposed to shrink tumors.  He’s been on it 5 weeks now and we think maybe it’s taking hold.  He hasn’t had a stomach episode in 2 weeks and has slept through the night for almost an entire week so far.  Humans, canine, horses and feline in our household are all breathing huge sighs of relief and enjoying this wonderful stretch of Petey’s good health!

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I’m Having a Jewelry Sale!!!

This button Murano glass button necklace, a $20 value now on sale for $15!  To purchase go to

This button Murano glass button necklace, a $20 value now on sale for $15! To purchase go to


Treat yourself to one of my fused glass jewelry items during my 2016 Winter Jewelry Sale!!!!  Enjoy 25% off selected items in my shop.   Browse my jewelry categories and select a nice bauble to drive away the winter blues.  Earrings, pendants, bracelets/earring sets, belt buckles and more!  Shop today while supplies last!


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A Fond Christmas Memory


Christmas gift cards with their holiday themed candy ready for distribution.

There are many many people who keep the West Orange Westheimers operating efficiently and they are all very much appreciated.  Every year we receive lists of names of employees of the NYC apartment building and our gated community.  Add to them there are the unsung heroes who do the heavy lifting to keep the house and grounds running- the garbage men, the handyman, the crew from the cleaning service, the apartment cleaning lady, the mail carrier, UPS man, paper delivery person, Fed Ex, the list seems endless!

But these people have a very special place in my heart.  They are on the job, every day, doing all the things no one in their right mind, given the choice, would want to do.  Their invisibility also is a sign of their efficiency, as really, the only way you would notice most of them if the garbage piled up, the mailbox was empty, no paper at the end of the driveway, the apartment and house robbed blind, the weeds out of control.

I have a tradition that started way before I had the means to implement it: candy with the card containing the tip.  It goes back to a very fond Christmas memory.  In honor of the occasion, as my little Christmas gift to you, please find the following:

When I was 19, I was in college, going to New York University’s Washington Square University College (called something else now, this was in 1981.)  I was living at home with my parents in New Jersey, trying to save up enough money to move to Greenwich Village.  It seemed at the time a remote possibility, but that was the goal (I did wind up moving there when I was 20.)  I had a part time job as a receptionist in an architectural firm in the Flatiron District.  The pay was decent and it was interesting, I liked my co-workers and in my down time at my desk I could study.  My job was mostly answering phones, processing mail and packages going in and out, scheduling meetings, filing, a little typing and greeting and ushering clients into the conference room.  There were 3 partners in the firm with fairly steady clients and I got to know each from their frequent visits.

My first Christmas working for the firm, one of the clients came in the week before Christmas and gave me, the secretary and the book keeper each a card and a 1/4 pound box of Godiva chocolate.  Godiva!  A 1/4 pound gold box tied with a red bow!  I had never had Godiva chocolate before.  This was major, the equivalent today for me would be getting an Hermes scarf, or a couple hundred pounds of clay.  I was so thrilled, so touched that this man would take the trouble to give me, the person who answered the phone, took his coat and fetched coffee something so nice.  I figured he must have been very rich to be handing out little gold boxes willy nilly like that!

I carried my treasure home to New Jersey.  My mother, father, grandmother and I sat around the dining room table with the box in the middle.  Their little girl, all grown up, working in the Big City, coming home with such luxury.  I ceremoniously opened it.  Inside was a sheet with pictures and descriptions of each piece!  This was so special, what a tremendous treat.  None of us had ever had any candy this nice before.  My father read the sheet, pointing to each piece.  How to choose?  We ended up each taking one at a time, taking a tiny bite and passing it along, so at the end we each got a taste of every single piece, discussing how utterly marvelous the flavors were as we went.  It was a moment in our Christmas that we shared that was something special, unexpected, magical.  A rare treat all of us could enjoy together with the same sense of wonder.  Having my family around the table with me enjoying my largess remains one of my fondest Christmas memories.  I’m sure that man never gave a second’s thought as to the impact of his small gesture.

From that moment on I vowed that if I ever had the means I would repeat the gesture.  When the list was short and the economy good there were the same 1/4 boxes of Godiva.  But when the list grew exponentially and the economy crashed and I wanted to support my local businesses I found Bromilow’s and their festive Santas, snowmen and little stocking purses filled with chocolate balls.  Now that Godiva is in every mall, their catalog in every mailbox, available on line with the click of a button,  and rival high quality chocolates abound, I doubt that any of the people I gift these items to feels the same way I did those many years ago.  But I hope to at least give them a glimmer of a smile when they get their card with the candy taped to it.  I would have loved to see the expression on Eric’s face when he got his.  He comes twice a month with the huge truck at the crack of dawn to empty the manure dumpster.  I put his in a zip lock bag and duct taped it to the lid.  😉