Post Date: March 30th, 2020

Comfort food was the featured topic in the food section of last week’s local paper. Who doesn’t need some comfort food during the coronavirus pandemic?

My daughter, a registered nurse, works as a charge nurse of the operating room at one of the largest medical centers in Wisconsin. It is an especially challenging time, and she feels a certain grim inevitability about contracting the virus. Accordingly, she and her husband are socially distancing themselves from us because my husband and I are over age 60 (albeit healthy). This is hard on all four of us.

So making comfort food we all love is definitely indicated. One of the suggestions in the newspaper that caught my eye was booyah.

Booyah is a Belgian soup. I have long thought its name is an Americanized version of the French words bouillon or “bouilla” as in bouillabaisse. It’s made from two different long-simmering bone broths, most commonly chicken and beef. The broths are eventually combined and simmered for an even lengthier period of time. Then a plethora of vegetables is added.

Green Bay was settled in part by Belgians, including Walloons (French-speaking Belgians). Everyone from Green Bay knows booyah. Chicken booyah is sold by the quart or gallon at every church picnic during the summer. A booyah chef cooks it outside over a fire in a large barrel that he stirs with a boat oar. Each chef has his own version of booyah and the recipes are usually kept secret. But my aunt finagled one and made it every Fourth of July for her extended family – about 75 people. Her only requirement was that each of us bring our own bowl.

I tweaked her recipe and reduced amounts for serving a much smaller group. I’ve served it since our daughter was ten years old. Just the smell of it brings back good memories for her. She deserves a kettle full during this crisis. All of our nurses, doctors and other health professionals do. And what better time to embark on a lengthy cooking adventure? Booyah can be made in one day, but it’s better made in two.

So here’s my recipe. Start the beef broth first as it cooks 1-2 hours longer than the chicken broth.


Beef Broth:


  • 3 lbs. beef bones (oxtails, neck bones, knuckle bones and/or short ribs)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1½ Tbsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Parsley sprigs with stems
  • Dash of white vinegar


  1. Put bones in 10-qt. kettle. Cover with water to 2-3 inches above them.
  2. Bring to a boil, and skim and discard scum.
  3. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer uncovered for 3-4 hours.
  4. Strain, reserving bones. Remove any meat from bones and save with the chicken meat in a medium-large bowl. Refrigerate the meats.

Chicken Broth:


  • 5-6 lb. stewing (or roasting) chicken
  • 1 large onion
  • ¼ bunch celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Parsley sprigs with stems
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. each: marjoram, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme


  1. Put chicken in 10-12 qt. kettle. Cover with water to 2-3 inches above it.
  2. Bring to a boil, and skim and discard scum.
  3. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours.
  4. Remove chicken. Skin and bone, reserving bones and discarding skin. Tear chicken into pieces and save in a medium-large bowl. Strain broth.
  5. Combine the two broths, adding back all the bones. Simmer uncovered for 6+ hours. Strain. Combined broth may remain unrefrigerated overnight.

DAY 2, 1¼ hours before serving time


  • Combined broth
  • 1 Tbsp. MSG (Accent)

  • 1 15-oz. can navy beans, undrained
  • ¾ bunch of celery, chopped
  • 1 lb. carrots, chopped
  • 1 large and 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 lbs. potatoes, cubed (with their water if prepped ahead of time)
  • ½ medium-size green cabbage, chopped
  • 5 oz. frozen peas
  • 5 oz. frozen corn
  • 5 oz. frozen green beans


  1. Add MSG to the broth. Bring the broth to a boil and rapidly simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the next set of ingredients as well as the saved chicken and beef meats. Bring back to a boil and rapidly simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  3. Serve with oyster crackers.

     Leftover booyah can be refrigerated for about a week.

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Post Date: January 24th, 2020

One afternoon last spring I was in a meditative state while receiving a Thai massage when the word “Aikido” emerged in my mind’s eye. When the bodywork was finished I had the sense that aikido would somehow “evolve” me.

I knew of aikido as a Japanese martial art because the person who was doing the Thai bodywork has a black belt in it. Two of my former judicial colleagues were skilled in aikido as well. I understood it to be a defensive martial art.

Because the idea of training in aikido came to me in meditation and because of the intriguing idea that it would evolve me, I contacted one of the local aikido centers, letting them know of my interest and my age. A kind person replied that aikido is for men and women across the age span and that I was welcome to observe a few classes before joining. I asked about a class that fit into my schedule, and the response was that it was a smaller class so there would be a lot of individual attention from the teacher (sensei) and thus a good class for beginners. Sounded perfect!

I started mid-summer. For the first six weeks or so, the sensei would teach me bits of things so I could master a little something each class. After that initial success I would watch something more complicated (at least to me) demonstrated but couldn’t seem to translate what I saw into what I should be doing when practicing with another student.

Weapons work was somewhat easier because I found a video online that showed each of the 20 basic weapons movements that we were starting to learn. I found out later that using a video is not how aikido is taught; one learns from the sensei and more experienced students. But I admit it helped me a lot. I would study it over and over and over again to get the exact movements down for each of the first five weapon techniques. Plus I could practice at home with a mop handle sans mop. Then I was able to absorb the sensei’s corrections in class. I felt great.

But weapons work wasn’t done every week, and the focus soon changed back to hand-to-hand maneuvers which I bumbled my way through. Which way to start, where do my feet go, what position should my hands be in, then what am I supposed to do? I caught on very slowly if at all. The sensei was at times harsh and encouragement was sparse. I began dreading going to class.

A new student came to class in December and was able to catch on quite quickly. It was demoralizing to see someone who had been to two classes outperforming me who’d been training for six months. I wrote in my journal that I felt “sad, body-stupid and discouraged.”

I’d reached my nadir.

Then it came to my attention that new students don’t have to be in the class I was in; they can go to any class and the sensei would teach to their level. So I decided to add a second class starting in January to see if more exposure to the movements would help. 

The class I chose is quite different from my original class. It starts on time and ends on time. There are more students in it. The sensei is kind and encouraging, and conducts a full warm-up before we begin the techniques. And I’m actually learning! It is such a welcome change that I decided to attend the original class less frequently.

Meanwhile I realized that part of the issue in my learning is that I’m not used to being in such close bodily contact with people. I worked hard in my adult life to develop good boundaries, and as a judge I had additional layers of detachment percolating in and around me: sitting three steps up from everyone else in the courtroom, wearing a robe, exercising judicial dispassion. Aikido, on the other hand, requires aggressively entering another’s personal space and holding them close while rendering them defenseless. As a sensei said, “The closest human connections are making love and killing.”

I note that the physicality of aikido is a different way for me to express myself. When I was an attorney, my opponents and I fought verbally; it was a war of words. And a war it was. Hockey was the sport that seemed most akin to being a trial attorney. Now in the new aikido class I feel that warrior fire emerge again. It’s refreshing to awaken a part of myself long dormant.

But even before I started the new class, I changed my mental game. Instead of thinking of myself as “body-stupid,” I invented four new mantras that represent a can-do attitude: “I see, and I can do what I see, in aikido. I train competently in aikido. I remember what I learn in aikido. I am one with aikido.”

Compared to my nadir, these statements are bold and audaciously positive. So much so that I had an internal battle play out when I first started saying them. My saboteur would say, “NO! NO! You’re slow to catch on! You’re too old to learn new tricks! Your knees are arthritic!”

But as Mitch McConnell said of Elizabeth Warren, “she persisted.” After about 10 days, I felt the new mantras gaining a toehold in my psyche. I repeat the mantras often so that they become more fully rooted and thereby of even greater influence.

As I write about my initial foray into aikido, I see that it represents a gradual, subtle transformation of myself – an early manifestation of the evolvement theme from my meditation last spring. So on I go.

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Post Date: November 22nd, 2019

We have a cat named Maggie. We had three other cats through the years but they’ve crossed the rainbow bridge. But we also have three grand-cats. So I get that cats like to do their own thing and can’t be trained like dogs who will learn anything for a treat. Plus Maggie is aging so any possibility of training her to do anything is improbable.

Actually Maggie trained us. Every morning about 5:00 she comes into our bedroom to sing the song of her tribe. If one of us rises to shoo her out and close the door, she stands – er, sits – her ground right outside the door and continues her ode to her ancestors. She wants her morning canned food. It doesn’t matter that there’s dry food for her to eat in two separate locations. No, she vociferously demands to hear the opening of a can of delicacies.

Once she’s eaten, she sleeps most of the day on a blanket in the living room. Then round about 4:30 in the afternoon she begins loudly meowing for her evening ration of canned food. If I’m in the kitchen, she quietly walks over to the edge of the white carpet and begins her meowing. She won’t step one dainty paw onto the wooden kitchen floor. And if I am in the den, she goes to the other edge of the living room carpet and voices her need from there, not stepping one white paw onto the foyer tile, much less crossing it and entering the den. She is very particular about boundaries.

Even when I’m doing yoga in my upstairs woman’s cove and invite her in, she stays at the line where the hall carpet meets the cove carpet. Thankfully she doesn’t sing the song of her people while perched there.

My one-hour yoga routine ends with savasana, the resting pose (asana) of recovery. I lie on my back and close my eyes for 10 minutes. This is an especially quiet, peaceful time, but a few weeks ago I felt a thud and then heard purring. Boundaries be damned; Maggie had crossed the carpet line and was lying on the floor next to my head enjoying some savasana of her own.

Earlier this week she crossed over again. I was doing an asana which involved lying on my back and holding my right leg straight up in the air with the help of a strap around my foot the ends of which I was grasping firmly. She looked at me silently, then crossed the boundary back into the hallway. She sat down and began cleaning herself by raising her right leg straight up in the air, albeit sans strap.

Maybe cats are trainable after all, even in old age. Maybe she’ll join me when I am in a different asana. She does the cat asana very well. Even the puppy pose when she wakes up from her nap.

Maggie, the yoga cat.

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Post Date: December 15th, 2018


The silence is delicious

Not one scintilla of extraneous sound

from the kitchen or the laundry room

the television or the phone

the road in front of the house

Only pure quietude

It is so still that I can almost hear the dust moving in the air

the vibrational energy of the all-encompassing

the beinghood of the colorful Christmas tree standing in happy grandeur

My heart is light and grateful

for the fullness

the grace

of silence

Solitude expresses the glory of being alone. -Paul Tillich

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Post Date: August 17th, 2018


An earth mother leans in a relaxed, prepossessing manner against the wooden table abutting one wall of a cozy, dimly lit massage room. Her blue eyes, clear behind red-rimmed glasses, are accentuated by her blue cotton over-shirt which falls to mid-thigh level. Her belly and hips are full. She stands solidly supported by tall legs covered in black leggings which end in long feet ensconced in sandals. Her chestnut hair is twirled into a thick braid which lays gracefully down her upper back. Her hands are confident as she begins by holding the heels of my bare feet up off the massage table. She moves methodically up and around my body, assessing and healing by the restorative laying on of her large, warm hands. She ends again with my feet. Myofascial release, she calls it. It’s earth mother magic to me.

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Post Date: July 25th, 2018


When I retired five years ago, I wanted to live in harmony with the rhythms of the seasons.

But I recently wanted something different for a midweek dinner so I cooked a hot meal on a warm summer evening.

Slicing the potatoes was meditative. Stirring in spices was messy. Topping the potatoes with thick slices of raw chicken breasts was sticky. And squirting it all with a large lemon was just plain fun. Then deep into a hot oven it went.

While the concoction cooked, I got out the package of spiraled red beets from a local farm. They’re so easily and quickly prepared in a slather of butter in a cast-iron skillet than by roasting. The deep maroon spirals turned a vivid, brilliant red as they cooked, and they were ready for the table in 10 minutes.

The earthy flavor of the beets grounded the piquant casserole. The tang of lemon was a savory offset to the garlicky, paprika-laced potatoes and chicken. And the slurry created by the potato starch and chicken juices was lusciously flavorful.

It sounds like an autumn or winter dish, and it is. What kind of living in harmony with summer is it when the oven is heated to 400 degrees for an hour? Yet it was just what the doctor ordered for a late-July dinner for two.

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Post Date: June 22nd, 2018


I was reading an article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about the latest development in the individualized treatment of cancer. It was written by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Several years ago I read his first book, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, so his name caught my attention. 

As I digested the dense article, I realized that I’d much rather delve into something about medicine than about the law. Medicine is more of a passion for me. Legal analysis is something I do well but I don’t look forward to doing it. It doesn’t capture my imagination. Not like when I read my first medical book in grade school about the different types of blood cells. That really got my juices going.

I’ve said for twenty years that my professional roots are in nursing, but now I feel that, not just think it. That’s why I liked criminal cases better than civil cases. Criminal cases needed both my left brain and my right brain. Civil cases only used my left brain. How dreary. Criminal cases allowed all of me into the equation – not only my whole mind with both its nursing and legal knowledge, but my heart, my beinghood. So my twelve years on the criminal bench were more satisfying than my four on the civil bench.

Now five years into my judicial retirement, I recently decided to also retire from my of counsel position at a law firm and from writing a column for a legal journal where I analyzed and commented on appellate case decisions. It was onerous to plow through cases to find one suitable to write about. And while I loved the people I worked with at the law firm, I was happy to leave legal analysis behind.

Which means I have the time to dive into and savor books like Mukherjee’s second tome, The Gene: An Intimate History. And now I know I will find it more absorbing than any legal decision.

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Post Date: August 13th, 2017


I spiked a fever with fierce chills in the middle of the night on Monday. I put a blanket on the bed and weathered it. The fevers continued that day and the next, although I felt much better on Tuesday. But when my urine output dropped well below my fluid intake Wednesday evening and I again had a fever, I gave in to my husband’s urging to contact my urologist. I texted her my symptoms and she immediately called back, directing me to the emergency room. I was admitted that evening for IV antibiotic treatment of pyelonephritis, a kidney infection.

I’ve managed to stay out of the hospital for three full years. Back then it was a urinary system infection too. Apparently with my surgically altered anatomy I am more vulnerable to kidney infections when I am rundown. While others may get strep throat or an ear infection or the grunge, I may get kidney infections. Now I have to adjust my physical self-image to take into account this new information.

I felt better on Thursday morning, a good indication that I was responding well to the antibiotic. But there I was, cooped up with only my phone for company.

I walked through the hospital halls, but they were crowded with equipment and people, so after a half mile I returned to my room. There’s a Starbucks inside the hospital lobby, which would have been a nice diversion plus providing strong, tasty coffee, but I actually needed a doctor’s order to go there. Trapped on the fifth floor of the hospital! And my discharge wasn’t planned until what seemed like a distant horizon – Sunday or Monday, pending the results of a urine culture.

Thankfully, on Friday afternoon, my husband secured a book from the library, and on Saturday morning my daughter and son-in-law brought me an old I-Pad they rarely used so I could watch shows on Netflix.

Interesting thing about that I-Pad. I was able to access all my emails, including the lab reports on the blood and urine samples that had been collected since I got to the hospital. Then – aha! – the email reporting my most recent urine culture result came through. Zero bacteria! I brought it to the attention of the nurse and doctor, and I was sprung free that very afternoon.

I took a long shower to wash the hospital off me. Then I did something I hadn’t been able to do for days – go outside and drink in nature along with some wine.

The purple blooms on the gangly crane bill geraniums curled along the side of the wooden stairs while an utterly umber fir tree stood sentinel at the property border. Cone-shaped white hydrangea draped gracefully toward bright yellow blackeyed Susans. The sun slanted through the dense, forest-green basswood leaves and the airy light-green foliage of the neighboring river birch, both set off by blooms of a Rose of Sharon. Amidst it all, the birds chichatted with one another.

As I looked at the low sun and trees, I had a momentary, transcendent appreciation of this carriage that I’m embodied in. It is me.  I once saw the golden carriage that the Dutch royalty use, and that is what I pictured in my mind and heart. The carriage needs repairs sometimes, and some spit and polish, but it’s me, and it’s here now and for many years to come.

Then a pesky chipmunk aggressively chirped its intent from the top of a Norfolk pine before sending the first of several tightly coiled green pine cones thudding loudly onto the deck. That was followed by a silent mosquito drawing blood from my elbow area.

Ah yes, back inside for the night.

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Post Date: July 23rd, 2017


My sister died. She was two years older than me, the first of the seven siblings to die.

She gave her all against MDRO – multiple drug-resistant organisms – the so-called superbugs that are no longer susceptible to antibiotics. She had been in the ICU on a respirator, sedated, with a feeding tube sending nutrition into her stomach. She was making some progress, but then came Day 14.

Day 14 is the day under medical protocol when a respirator must be taken out. The two options at that point were to simply remove it and let her die over the next 2-14 days, or have a tracheostomy performed and hook up a ventilator to it.

The tracheostomy with ventilator would be permanent, and the only care facilities that admit a patient with a trach-vent are located in Madison and Milwaukee. My sister and her husband live in Green Bay.

As it was, Mary couldn’t walk by herself, couldn’t feed herself, couldn’t go to the bathroom by herself, and couldn’t breathe by herself. She also had early-onset dementia. Her husband’s lament if she had the tracheostomy: “What kind of a life is that?” Indeed. So he decided against the tracheostomy.

The doctor left the respirator in a couple more days so that two of her daughters could return from Disney World where they’d been on a joint family vacation with their daughters. A son came in from Madison, and the eldest from Detroit with her fiancé.

Mary’s husband entrusted me with calling our siblings to notify them of this dramatic change so we could come and say our goodbyes. Several of Mary’s close friends also came. It was a crowded room. It’s hard to say a meaningful goodbye in the presence of so many others.

But there came a time when the crew decided to go to lunch and I stayed behind. I did some Reiki energy work on her and was able to position her hands in a peaceful way instead of clenched to the sheets.

How much does someone who is sedated and has dementia understand? But perhaps her soul heard my words letting her know that our mother and dad would be there to greet her, as would a beloved aunt who had recently passed.

Three days after the respirator was withdrawn Mary died in the quiet before dawn with her husband at her bedside. I relayed the somber news to my siblings. I was melancholic throughout that day. The only thing that buoyed me were the supportive responses to my brief Facebook post about her death.

The next day I awoke from good dreams and felt really good, believing firmly that Mary is at peace (“the peace which surpasses all understanding”), and that she no longer has dementia so I can talk to her and she’ll understand.

The following night I had a nightmare about others dying and was sad again. My daughter texted to ask how I was doing, and I explained. She wisely replied, “Grief really is swings and round-abouts.”

Mary had an old-fashioned funeral with her body displayed in the casket, an evening visitation and wake at the funeral home, and a visitation and Mass at the church of our youth the next morning. This was followed by a brief service at the mausoleum where she wanted to be buried (“somewhere warm where music can be played”).

The hardest part for me was seeing the closed casket covered by white linen wheeled down the center aisle before the Mass started. I thought, “Oh my God; Mary’s in there!”

I don’t regularly see my siblings so the funeral and the lunch that followed were salutary opportunities to catch up and see where we are on our journeys. The youngest is 56 and the oldest 73, each of us carrying out our genetic legacy in our own individual ways. It is good to be reminded of what unites us before we go back to our separate lives. Lives now changed because a piece of each of us is in that casket.

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Post Date: May 28th, 2017


My husband and I traveled to Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; and Prague, Czech Republic. What follows are musings from those fourteen days in May.

Young men roamed around the Viennese Opera House approaching tourists to sell tickets to cultural events such as concerts and the ballet. One of them began to sell us tickets to a Mozart-Strauss concert. We first began to be suspicious when he offered to carry our credit card halfway around the outside of the building in apparent deference to me with my lopsided gait as I favored my sore, arthritic knee. Our doubt deepened when the tickets he produced had no row number or seat number despite his showing us our supposedly reserved seats on a concert hall map. We checked the name plaque he wore around his neck for authenticity. He reassured us that it’s traditional in Vienna to sell tickets this way. Nonetheless, we paid in cash rather than leave our credit card information with him. I lost sleep thinking of all the little indicia of the scam. How could we be so gullible? But what could we do except go to the concert hall and present our tickets in case they might be real? I was astonished when we were seated where the ticket seller promised. Sometimes when someone I know dies, I think, “Now they know the truth” about something they were blind to when they were alive. But I didn’t need to die to find out the truth about the ticket seller. I only needed to show up at a concert hall with his tickets.

Warned of pickpockets and dishonest taxi drivers, I was not particularly looking forward to coming to Budapest. But she charmed me with her beauty in geography, architecture and statuary. She knows how to adorn her architecture with night lighting, and some of her statutes convincingly demonstrate movement. She has reclaimed her proud heritage after Nazi and communist takeovers. And now she even sports pedal beer bars on hot Friday afternoons. What’s not to like? 

No one makes fashion statements in Budapest or Prague, and few women wear make-up. In Paris, by contrast, an aged woman stepped out of her apartment building dressed in black leather, glazed with make-up, to walk her dog. 

The Danube is now a beautiful river, not green and odiferous as it was in the 1980s. She carries many tour boats between her shores as she courses through Europe. She is quieter and gentler than the Bosporus Strait between Europe and Asia, a fiercely energetic waterway with tankers and ships. 

I think that by wearing a knee sleeve, taking frequent sitting breaks, and regularly imbibing anti-inflammatories and analgesics, I am pampering my arthritic knee. But by the tenth day I realize I actually am merely mollifying the aggravation I’m causing it by walking three or four miles a day in European cities over uneven stone, concrete or tiled surfaces. So sorry, dear knee. I promise to take up swimming upon my return to the States. 

People visit large European cities for the museums, architecture, central squares, worship spaces, food, people and flora. I especially enjoy the latter, taking pleasure in photographing flowers when I travel. But flowers are scarce in Prague. On the other hand, cobblestone sidewalks and streets are ubiquitous. These surfaces, comprised of two-inch squares, eight-inch squares and mixed-sized rectangles, are physically challenging for me to negotiate. The rare blacktopped surface is a godsend, like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. And if there are also shade trees along the block, it’s a double scoop. 

We noticed young couples in all three cities engaging in public displays of affection in subway stations. Truth be told, even we, a 47-year couple, indulged in affectionate touching as we rode the escalators deep down to the subway platforms. But better than these little stolen moments was the luxury of unfettered time in each other’s presence, realizing again how much we love one another and appreciating the deep grace and enduring comfort of our relationship. 

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