September 21st, 2014 · Comments Off
Our grand plan to move a 30 foot blow up obstacle course indoors during a rain storm. GENIUS.
Thank you to EVERYONE for the kind messages, texts, and phone calls. I won’t lie…I was feeling just a little cranky by Friday evening, so those messages really helped. The eye drops sting, and I started to secretly rethink the whole thing. And then there’s the remembering to take them…blah, blah, this was not on the brochure…blah.
But the jokes started rolling in, and I couldn’t stop laughing. The “don’t ask the blind girl” jokes go back with some of my girlfriends for 20 years, and they ALWAYS make me feel better. Nobody gets through life unscathed. No one, no how. Better to laugh, and to let the act of “being known” warm you up inside.
Here’s how my friends roll:
Kellie via text: Eye drops are important. The condo in Boca may not accept seeing eye dogs so you have to take care of yourself. And your Cadillac ain’t gonna drive itself to go get more prune juice at the Winn Dixie You can do this!
Me: Ain’t nobody want to see a dog at the Early Bird Buffet in Naples. Not to mention, being blind AND afraid of dogs is a horrible combination. Greg is getting me a seeing eye giraffe.
Kellie: OH, Naples…you must plan on us winning the lottery in 2030. I like the way you think. Giraffes are awesome, but might clash with all the other animal prints you’ll be sporting on your tufted vests…
Lydia sent me an email about decorating her new home, except she accidentally sent it to Greg instead:
Lydia: Roman shades have been shipped, and I have two more candle pillars on the way. The idea with the candle garden is to ultimately have the heights of the candles mirror the slope of the stairs above them. Then, I thought I could weave some seasonal greenery around the bases for fall or Xmas.
Greg’s reply: For the love of God, why would you send this to me? Did my wife hire you to be part of some sort of aesthetically-manipulative cult?
Lydia: I’m really hurt, Greg. Are you saying that you don’t care about my living room decor choices? I thought you were my friend, but I see how it is.
Cuts me to the bone, man, cuts me to the bone……..
Greg: Any “friend” of mine who sends me an email referencing “Roman Shades” and “Pottery Barn” is either drunk, no longer my friends, or is sending a coded message for help.
Oh my God – do you need my special skills? [Greg inserted a link to Liam Neeson's monologue in the movie "Taken"].
Lydia: I don’t know what you are talking about. I don’t need help. I don’t have a problem. I can stop decorating any time I want to. It’s just recreational. Besides, everyone else is doing it. Just yesterday I saw a post of Lori and Jenny at the fabric store. I mean, if everyone else is doing it, it can’t be that bad. It’s not like I NEED to decorate or anything. I only do it once in a while, anyway. You just don’t understand me.
Taken from a Facebook conversation between my sister, Jenny (aka, La Decorateur), Lydia (our roomie from college), and me:
Me: We did the front room in a fresh, cottage mid-century, and therefore, as much as we love it, we couldn’t turn the living room British with the Houndstooth. The first floor is too connected not to flow.
Lydia: What does fresh, cottage, mid-century look like? I am picking curtains today for my “Nantucket Cottage with a hint of English Traditional That I Inherited From My Ancestors That Sailed Over on The Mayflower” home. Haha!
From there, I fell over in stitches talking to Greg, imagining myself with a seeing eye dog (I am not going blind, btw!). As I am horribly afraid of dogs, my perma-conversation would be:
Me: Greg! Is this dog biting me? Does it look mad? Does it look like it’s about to bite me?! What was that sound? Is the dog growling?
(I think we discovered my own version of hell. However, for some odd reason, Pomeranians do not frighten me, and I think we can all agree they would make for a disastrous helper dog.)
Me on the phone: GREG! I have no idea where I am! I told Pinky to walk me to the grocery, and now I’m surrounded by a mob of people speaking only in Turkish! How the hell did this happen? WHY WON’T THIS DOG STOP BARKING?! ALL THE TIME…THE BARKING!
And to end the week, I wrote a stand-up comedy act about a Catholic School doing a trash bag selling fundraiser/contest, and performed it in front of 400 kids. At a Catholic school. Where they just finished a a trash bag fundraiser/contest. Dressed entirely in clothes I made out of trash bags. When I open myself up to the Universe, I never know where it will take me. Life…it’s just so thrilling…good and bad, but worth the trouble it takes to survive it…Godspeed my friend. Godspeed on your own journey.
Tags: The Girls
I started the day with not unexpected news, but a story I have sidestepped for many, many years. This morning, I agreed I have glaucoma. I’ve probably had glaucoma for a while, but I wasn’t ready to face it until now. Almost 30 years ago a virus wrecked my left eye, and gently maimed my right. Those pressures go UP. They go DOWN. They go UP a little higher. They go DOWN. Glaucoma was finally mentioned for realsies last year, but I wanted to do ma’ rounds. Meditation, shamanic healing, what-have-you. I bought myself a really good year. But my corneas have thinned, so it’s time to let go, and stop the waiting game. 30 years is long enough. Let’s face it: I gave it a good run. My orbs are tired. Enough Lori…enough.
It was time to play the “cheer myself up game”, so I tried to pick out fabric for a sofa with dilated eyes. That was a super dumb idea, but I was entertaining to the interior decorators who witnessed 2 truly ridiculous hours of my life. If you stand at a window and SMASH your face into a grasscloth fabric with dilated eyes, can you SEE IT? The answer is no. I repeated this unsuccessful method with every brown grasscloth in a 4000 square foot fabric showroom. I’ve seen schizophrenics with faster insight into their madness.
I went to the house, and stood in my sunny kitchen. Bright Cantina music was playing, and men were surrounding my house and singing. I felt like I was on my honeymoon in Mexico, and it was just what I needed. Did I dance? Lil’ bit. Not going to lie. I was feeling pretty grateful. After all, these eyes are the same eyes I had yesterday. Aging sucks for everyone; I don’t get the Brownie Badge for doing it with flair. Glaucoma at 42? Get in line. Crap that happens after 40 doesn’t even count. My Sister-in-Law said it best, “In the world of “omas”, you’ve had worse.” AGREED. This is like…the permanent marker of “omas”, but it’s not melanoma! It’s a middle oma at best. I ate a Big Mac (don’t judge me, it was prescribed), and decided to move on. Nothing to see here. Literally! HAHAHA!!
When I gave up and collapsed into the mindless internet for the evening, I read that a blogger I follow passed away yesterday, leaving 2 young children. A child I’ve been praying for since 2009 has a return of her brain tumor. A 3rd recurrence for a brain tumor with a zero percent survival rate. What can I say? I’m a sucker for miracle praying. Put off glaucoma for 30 years…you’ll believe in miracles.
Kelly walked around the corner as I was reading and said, “Cursive requires bravery”. I got to hear that. While were reading together, she said, “I don’t think truer should be a word. It’s too odd. I’m going to say more true instead.” I totally agree. I was there to witness this revelation. The girls avoided bedtime by making up study songs for Sara’s upcoming Art test. “I wish my eyes would turn the color of my fate”. Deep, my children…DEEP. I got to hear their melodies about tertiary colors: “t-u-r-s-h-e-w-a-r-y, that’s our agreement on how you are spelled. You are hard to spell, and even harder to understand…”
I haven’t missed a moment. I haven’t appreciated all of them, but I’ve been there. I’m a walking-talking-still-seeing history book of my family’s days together. My fingers are stained with the failed Kool-Aid hair dye experiment for Crazy Hair Day at school. My living room is covered with random craft pieces, because I’m not attending just ONE Spirit Week Assembly tomorrow. I’m attending TWO. I’m the MC at my Niece’s school! I’m a sucker for an audience of kids celebrating the end of a successful trashbag selling season. What can I say? Hand me that microphone and let’s ROCK this CATHOLIC TRASHBAG SELLIN’ SCHOOL! As a gag, did I make a wardrobe out of trashbags? MAAAAYBEEEE….
I get to be a part of ALL of my life, and the amazing people who fill it to overflowing. Now, I’ll just do it with eye drops. But I told my doc the eye drops are temporary. I’ll only take them until a cure is found. In the meantime, he agreed around me, he’ll call my diagnosis “glaucoma-esque”, or “glaucoma-like”. Either way, I’m cool with it. I’m diagnostically flexible.
In the celebration of seeing, please leave a comment telling me about the beautiful things you saw this week. With your heart, your head, your eyes…doesn’t matter. It’s all love. And while I never turn down prayers, please think of it this way: God answered this prayer for 30 years. In my opinion, I already got my miracle. Godspeed to you and yours this weekend, my friends. Godspeed.
Tags: The Girls
September 17th, 2014 · Comments Off
It’s Spirit Week at school. YEAH SCHOOL SPIRIT! When I was a kid, we didn’t have Spirit Week, and maybe as a result, we had less spirit. But we did have homemade chicken and noodles at lunch, and mmmboy, do I love me some poultry and sticky dough, soaked in flour and broth. Midwestern roux…good stuff. Keep the spirit and pass me the carbs instead.
So as the case may be, I do not have the necessary background to steer my children through the quagmire that is “Spirit Week” with its assigned “Dress Up Days”. These days require last minute planning and ridiculous styling on behalf of the parents, because no child puts enough thought into “Hero Day” or “Dress As Your Favorite Character Day”, until the last second. We only have 43 planning days until Halloween! FOCUS PEOPLE! Sara wants to be half human-half peacock! GO MOMMA! GO! (If you doubt me, revisit last year’s costume when she asked to be how Beyonce’s character in the movie “Epic” made her FEEL…)
For “Hero Day”, Sara wanted to be Kim Possible, and Kelly wanted to be Tricky from Subway Surfers. Obviously, Greg thought this was AWESOME! (Sing it in your head as you say it). The fact that my precious daughters wanted to be a Ninja with a sass-mouth and a Graffiti Artist being chased by cops all over the world, meant I have officially flunked parenting. Handing in my textbooks and my coordinating lunchbox tupperware containers…I have failed.
But not before I yanked the spray paint can out of Kelly’s hand, because that was NOT a good idea. NO GREG. IT WAS NOT.
The girls awoke in a funk, as both realized they were indeed not…cartoon characters. Even in cargo pants, high top tennis shoes, a beanie, and wearing fake glasses, they were still humans. After having had enough of Sara’s “why didn’t you dye my hair orange like Kim Possible’s?” rant, I laid down the law:
Mommy: Sara! Are you upset that you didn’t wake up as a 5’8″ teenager with perfect hair, bright green eyes, and huge boobies?
Sara: Um…(insert Daddy popping his head around the corner and laughing hysterically)…well, yes.
Mommy: That was never going to happen, along with Kim Possible’s half top. You look wicked cool in those cargo pants. Now roll with it.
As it turns out, they both did, and while they were truly obscure, a dear friend came dressed as the Pizza Delivery Man. Her Mom is my best friend, so to celebrate our “F” in Motherhood, we went out to coffee and had a good laugh. Almost a laugh, maybe a bit of a cringe, and a couple of tears thrown in…because DUDE. Parenting girls is HARD. We couldn’t tarry long…we had to buy dye because tomorrow is Crazy Hair Day. I HATE YOU AND YOUR INHERENTLY RIDICULOUS ERRANDS SPIRIT WEEK! Although I met some very helpful ladies at the beauty supply store, and I have decided this year’s nail polish color will be “COPPER”. You read it here first.
In the meantime, Syd got sick. Probably not world-ending sick, but enough that we had to find a Vet, STAT, in our new area of town. Go HERE Lori, they said. THEY are the BEST Lori, they said. As it turns out, THEY have a rescued cat room. THEY invited us into the Kittie Rescue Room after Sydney’s insanely expensive stomachache was quelled. Kitty Crack Room is a better name for it. See the tiny cherub above? No, not Sara…the other one. YES….to that I said NO. NO SARA.
That goes double for you Tricky. RUN TRICKY! The Beijing police are chasing you! Put down the kitten and your paint spray can and RUN!
Including Sydney in her carrier, there are no less than 4 cats in this picture, all somehow engaging with Sara, the cat whisperer. Sara is holding a beautiful cat with one eye. Did I mention all cats were rescued to this location because they needed life-saving medical care? And now they need homes? The one talking to Sydney is BLIND. 3 were missing one eye. Oh the heartstrings, they hurt.
And then my old friend Max appeared, so full of love, she licked both girls’ faces until they collapsed into giggles. She isn’t Max in this scenario; her name is Esther. She was thrown from a car at a very young age and needed surgery on her broken leg. She’s healed, and ready to go home. Home…oh good heavens.
Pass more chicken and noodles, please. This week has done me in, and we can just forget Crazy Hair Day. We may have our hands full with Crazy Cat Lady Day…
Tags: The Girls
Some seasons end quickly, rushing out, as if it were late for a party. But some make their entrance more surreptitiously, only allowing you see bits and pieces at a time. And so it seems it will be this way with our move…the fact that it’s taken a year should have given this away earlier? Hey, wisdom takes what it takes.
The week started in it’s usual rhythm: Greg took a shower right after the cats dropped a stinky one in the bathroom. We got ready to the stench of litter so strong, it was changed before breakfast hit the table. Speaking of things hitting the breakfast table, I had to stop the dryer before I served the eggs, because those things cannot go hand in hand. The dryer shakes the ceiling fan to the point we fear it will fall out of the ceiling, so no one is allowed to eat at the table when we’re doing laundry. All loads still have to be dried twice, so we usually just eat in the living room. Of course eating in the living room has its challenges. Whenever the furnace fan kicks on, we have the double the volume on the TV. But at least we got ready faster this morning as we didn’t have to open any closet doors. They all fell off yesterday. Sorry…I’m being dramatic. Not ALL of them…only 2 doors fell off yesterday. I told the family for the next 5 weeks, all closet doors are to remain open. Safety first!
But on our commute, I couldn’t help my excellent mood. It’s sunny. We get up a full HOUR later than we used to, and I spent our short drive calculating exactly how much time I’m NOT spending in the car these days. Sometimes I go so long without needing gas, I forget when I last filled up. If you were to calculate the time savings for our entire family, cumulatively we are spending 31 fewer hours in the car per week. I spend part of that time at the house. I like to wish it good morning and tuck it in at night. I can get to the new house quickly, because I get everywhere quickly these days. I live here, where my life is located.
On my way home from school this morning, I stopped in the village for a cuppa Joe at my favorite little coffee shop. The streets are brick, and the ambiance is like stepping into a painting. The picture above is where I meet my gal pals for wine on the occasional warm evening. We walk into this painting on Friday nights for pizza and ice cream, and it’s just too lovely for words.
My trials as of late are in the hands of a friend we shall call “the advocate”, and I no longer worry about ghosts, or water spewing through kitchen ceilings, or whether or not a behemoth apartment company stole my rent money and used it to buy a spider farm. Whether or not we settle our dispute with the summer from hell is no longer “haunting” me (ha!), because capable and kind professionals are showing me the way. That feels freeing, to say the least.
The house is entering its final stages, thanks to our Realtor, who seems to be at the house as often as I am. I bump into her (and her checklist) every week. She is usually walking around with a level, a measuring stick, and a bullhorn. Kidding! Sort of. She measured the floor board trim last week and called me immediately to make sure they were tall enough. One day she walked through the house and measured the ceilings to make sure the can lights were centered. Oh yes she did. They are centered now! Every time I look at my ceilings and thick, gorgeous trim, I’ll remember the long summer when Jennifer had my back. I stood behind the trim carpenters last week and let a few tears of joy drop to the dusty floor. One turned around and asked me, “This is your dream house, isn’t it?” Covered in smiles, I said, “If I could choose any dining room in the world, I’d choose this one. I’m just thinking about the dinners that will take place here, and yes…this is my dream.”
The book titled “The Summer of 2014″ is a long one, full of mayhem and mystery. But it’s almost time to put it away, and let it collect dust on the shelf. The seasons are changing; the pumpkins are mums are out, and the autumn sun is shining bright. I have Lily Allen’s “Littlest Things” on repeat on iTunes, mostly because I keep forgetting I’ve already purchased it, and I own several copies. But that’s good too, because I can never listen to it just once. Let’s enjoy this turning of events, shall we? Godspeed, my friends. Godspeed.
Tags: The Girls
When I talk about the American diet with my friends, I usually start with the statement, “More often than not, America is asking the wrong question.”
Here’s an example via a conversation I had with Greg this week:
Greg: I was reading about Chia seeds. I’d like to incorporate Chia seeds into our diet.
Me: Seeds? Why? Do they have a good flavor?
Greg: I don’t know about their flavor, but they are supposed to be a food that is really good for you.
Me: Oh…then let’s clarify: Chia seeds is not a food. It’s an ingredient. So I’m guessing it’s the quinoa of 2014? Just as kale became the spinach of 2012? I believe before that, we were supposed to drink soy milk, go gluten-free, eat more salmon as long as it was caught in the wild, and something about flax. Disgusting, yucky flax.
I can’t tell you the number of times my Mother has complained to me about her health, and said, “I don’t understand why I don’t feel better. I eat plain oatmeal for breakfast every single day, and for lunch, I have a plain chicken breast.”
Or how about the constant stream of media telling us to eat several “small” meals per day, constituted of things such as plain yogurt and handful of almonds?
Those things aren’t food. Those are INGREDIENTS.
I don’t mean to imply all food must be cooked into a complex recipe to be worthwhile, but plain oatmeal ain’t never, in the history of mankind, nourished anyone’s spirit. Unless they were starving, then yes, plain oatmeal would look pretty darned good. Otherwise, it requires a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, a squirt of honey, and a handful of walnuts. Maybe some raisins. Or cream. Wait…are we thinking steel-cut oatmeal or ground? Great…now I want oatmeal. And if someone comes anywhere near me with that stuff they sell in the envelopes, so full of sugar you can’t even taste the oatmeal, I’m going to walk you straight to the trash. That isn’t food either. Those aren’t even ingredients.
I love plain almonds, when they are toasted and tossed in my salad with an apple cider vinaigrette, radishes sliced as thin as paper, and mandarin oranges. I love chicken, tossed gently in a mixture of cinnamon, salt, and pepper, and served on top of a bed of pumpkin and sage grits. When I eat these “ingredients”, the combination of smells and textures is the heart of our home. It tastes like I’m swallowing a hug.
Food, as it goes down, should refuel the spirit and feed the soul. If that weren’t the case, as animals, we’d be perfectly happy crunching on plain kale and Tavern on the Green would still be closed. It’s such a gorgeous thing, this connection of our tongues to our minds to our stomachs to our spirits. We should enjoy it. We should celebrate it.
I don’t mean celebrate delicious cheeseburgers until we’re gluttonous, followed by daily sessions in the gym, attempting to imbue our existence with a puritanical theme…that’s not nourishing (albeit terribly American). Just simply, every day, I want to eat food that makes me happy and reminds me of a life worth living.
So the following night, after the Chia seed conversation, I made a pizza with a ratatouille based sauce, topped with sweet peppers, pepperoni, mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, and cheese. Sprinkled generously with Chia seeds (and rosemary salt, because I had flaxseed flashbacks just looking at those black things). During our regular game of “guess what Mommy put in it”, nobody guessed Chia seeds (or eggplant, but when they found out it was in the sauce…let the complaining begin…followed by everyone licking their plates).
So…my point was made. If I got my family to eat eggplant, sweet peppers, zucchini, squash, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and cheese…why do we need the nutrients in Chia seeds? What’s wrong with your diet that you need to eat a seed that costs $16.99 per pound? Do you know how many heirloom tomatoes I can buy for $16.99? I could make a tomato-vinegar jam and put it on turkey! I could make a spaghetti sauce that would blow your mind! For $16.99, I could make 4 blackberry and peach cobblers and deliver them to my friends. (As it stands, I only made one this week, and the smell alone made me we want to weep with joy).
I’m all for the new thing in cooking…trust me. I read food news word for word. But the new “health” foods? You can keep ‘em. And in case you want to know what’s next on the horizon? Lentils are about to make an all-time comeback. They have ZERO flavor, but they are SO good for you. Here’s what you do: make an Italian Salsa Rossa, add cilantro and broth (I know…sounds crazy, but trust me), and some really fine and slightly spicy sausages from your favorite butcher….
Nourish that spirit! Won’t you join me?
Tags: The Girls
The list below won’t surprise anyone with school-aged children. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that anyone with kids will say these exact phrases several times during any given year. What I find astonishing is that I’ve said this entire list within the last 24 hours.
(1) Stop hiding your homework in the freezer!
(2) Who got syrup on the toilet seat? Forget it. I don’t want to know.
(3) How have you outgrown your underwear again? Do you slurp growth hormones in your sleep?
(4) How on EARTH do 20 pairs of socks lose their mates?! My head is going to pop off if you lose one more sock!
(5) It’s 95 degrees outside, so NO, you are not wearing a full-length wool coat to school.
(6) No, you can’t sleep underneath your beds on a school night, and that’s final.
(7) Why is there a half-eaten granola bar stuck to the bumper of the minivan?
(8) Stop putting lipstick on the cat.
(9) You got kicked in the head? Did you deserve it?
(10) You took a shower? Did you use soap? Let me smell your head. Oh heavenly sticky honey, you forgot to wash out the conditioner. And I’m checking your toothbrush at bedtime. It had better be wet.
(11) Is that a half-eaten hard-boiled egg on the floor of the car? Ah! Someone grab my head, quick! Before it pops off!
(12) Excuse me, but there are gym shoes on my kitchen table. Where I eat. Smelly, sweaty shoes ON the table. Is my head popping off? Because it feels like it’s popping off.
(13) Where are the leaves for your leaf project? The ones we picked in St. Louis and hauled back across two states? You didn’t pick them up off the floor. The cat ate them, and threw up all day. I think you found a new creative spin for your assignment, although gluing cat puke may be difficult.
(14) WHO DRIED MY BATHING SUIT WITH THE TOWELS?!
(15) You lost your recess for throwing…dirt? At whom? Why? How much? Whose idea was this? Why? What…you know what? Go tell your Father. And no more telling me you keep forgetting the rules of the playground. If you’re clever enough to shower without soap without getting caught, hide your laundry in the toy basket, and eat candy under your bed, you can remember “NO THROWING DIRT AT YOUR FRIENDS”.
Good God I love these monkeys. Life would be so unimaginably boring without them.
Tags: The Girls
For Crimes Against Technology (broke her sister’s tablet; although accidental, restitution has been mandated by the courts).
For Crimes Against Her Sibling (tried to steal her ice pack).
For Crimes Against Homework (was sent to her bed 4x during Sunday homework session to work on her attitude).
For Crimes Against Her Momma (felony back-talking).
For Crimes Against Technology (sneaking an iPad into bed to watch forbidden Disney sitcoms).
For Crimes Against Her Sibling (after losing her ice pack, she kicked Sara in the chest; punishment revoked as she was acting in self-defense).
For Crimes Against Her Homework (refusing to engage in her leaf project, assuming her parents will do it for her. WRONGO, Bunny. W-r-o-n-g-o).
For Crimes Against Housekeeping (failing to deposit dirty laundry anywhere NEAR the laundry basket, and repeat offender of hiding laundry under her bed).
Both girls are also charged with harboring a biological weapon. They brought home a cold which my immune system has somehow morphed into a treatment-resistant superbug. Fear the virus that can’t be taken down by Nyquil…fear it people.
Cheers from my desk, clinking Theraflu tea cups with you, dear Readers. Godspeed. To every parent entering Homework Season, Fall of 2014, Godspeed.
Tags: The Girls
The girls and I stopped by our favorite place this afternoon for a little pick me up. The walls were primed and the ceilings were in. So sunny. So very bright. The girls found it all to be so very perfect. Isn’t the morning room the perfect place to spin?
Suddenly, this house felt very different to me. The ceilings were textured. Had I planned that? The bathroom tiles are so…brown. Is that just because they are up against white walls? Every where I looked I saw dollar signs, and decisions, and second-guesses.
I told myself it was the head cold talking, at the end of a 95 degree day. I needed some honey tea and Nyquil. I needed to step away from the worries that this is all just too much. When did I wake up as a middle-aged adult, capable of putting together an entire house? I’m usually surprised when I pull together a successful outfit.
So maybe just one more spin. Let me hear just one more giggle from the girls who think this is the world’s coolest adventure. I was a child of parents who loved to build and remodel. I remember being 9, and thinking nothing was better than watching a home come into being. Spinning isn’t just a nice-to-have in these situations. It is required.
Tags: The Girls
I saw “The Hundred Foot Journey” last week (lovely, slow in a purposeful way, thinking I should redo my entire wardrobe to look more like a young, French chef on my day off, riding a bike through a village), and I learned a new phrase about cooking, “Food is memories”. Of course it is. I suppose I’ve said it one hundred times on my own one hundred foot journey. But it gave me pause.
Food is memories. Eating certain foods will unlock parts of your brain, and it will also share its own story, so listen to your food. Taste closely. Now closer still. Pay attention to the messages being shared.
Over Labor Day Weekend, we visited my summer childhood home in Southern Illinois. I decided to bring back as much as I could carry, so I could prepare it myself…and listen.
One bite in, and there it was: the apple wood smoked pork loin was different; I’d even say much different than the Indiana pork to which I am accustomed. The smoke was deeper, more pungent. I topped it with a very spicy apple salsa…again…spicy, not sweet, which I usually make. I was zipped back in time to my Aunt Susie’s dinner table, my cousin Brian across from me, and Uncle Goober next to him, the hot August sun setting behind their yard we so affectionately called, “5 Acres”. Everyone was tired from working hard on the farm and at the grain elevator. I could even smell the grain on Goob’s shirt, and hear the hogs in their pens, contentedly grunting after an evening meal. There was no mistaking the detail in every bite.
The green beans were sweeter than Indiana beans, which I had not anticipated. Corn is sweet in Indiana, but green beans are not. Ours are just a bit crunchier, which I thought I preferred, until I ate these. These were just right. I could taste the earth that grew them, and it felt more coarse, but less full of clay. I guess you could say the St. Louis beans had far less of a metallic taste, and bordered on a smoothness I found surprising, contrasted against the profound presence of the smell and flavor of the dirt. It’s hard to describe how I could taste the dirt, but I could. It rounded out in the back of my nose and throat, and I could almost feel my bare feet running through the summer fields after the rain. I could SMELL it, even more than I could taste it.
I took my first bite of corn and black beans, again, anticipating the wrong flavor. You could try 10 ears of corn and pick out Indiana corn every single time. It’s like eating yellow sugar. It jumps right off your tongue. Illinois corn is mellow, and it’s subtlety lets you know you’re headed west, where the sun is hotter, and the soil is different. Mixed with beans, tomatoes, and cilantro, it wasn’t the least bit unpleasant. But I looked at Greg (who had devoured the rest of the meal), and we both put down our bowls, unable to finish it. It’s hard not to prefer Indiana tomatoes and corn. They are the brightest flavors we grow.
Mild corn brought back memories of my sister and my cousins, heading off in the early morning to detassel. Detasseling is a very physically demanding job, and it was an unstated understanding that I simply didn’t have the stamina or heat tolerance. On the bell curve of cousins, I knew I fell far into the left edge of the curve. On those summer weeks when my compadres worked from sun up to sun down, making their untold fortune by chopping the tops off of corn, I felt left behind. I read my books, and sat in the shade, anxiously awaiting their return so I could hear stories about mean girls who wouldn’t share the water, and the endlessness of corn fields. I tried to imagine myself in the long, hot shirts and jeans, walking the rows…but I couldn’t. I knew I’d never make it to the first water break.
The tomatoes reminded me of my Mother, planting off the back of a tractor, earning extra money for my school clothes. My sister and I sometimes followed along, trying to walk gingerly between the newly planted rows. Sometimes we just waited at the edge of the fields, watching the slow pull of the row of seats, full of women, planting crops. Those evenings in the fields felt exceptionally lonely, and in hindsight, I wish I’d had the wisdom to suggest I’d prefer not to have the fancy, new clothes. But I was a child, unable to put words to the sadness of the adults around me. The tomato harvest would come, and my Mother and Grandmother would slice them, sprinkle them with salt, and eat tomatoes as snacks. They’d eat tomatoes until their mouths had sores, swearing it was worth it. I don’t know why this particular food memory makes me curl inside, but it does. Just the phrase, “sliced tomatoes” makes me cringe. Even now, I hesitate every time I buy a Big Boy, thinking maybe I’d prefer a Roma instead.
But those are memories, and I’ve said too much. This one dinner plate unlocked years of memories, as only food can do.
I brought back as much produce and goodness as Greg and the girls had patience for me to buy. A black diamond watermelon, blackberry cider, Honeycrisp apples (they are in season…RUN! Get them now!), peach salsa, fig preserves, apricot butter, sweet beef sticks, apple coffee cake, and the dinner I shared with you here. Most of it is gone already, as 2 young ladies with terrible head colds stood at my feet, begging for just one more glass of blackberry cider. It’s full of Vitamin C! What was I to do? I was to join them, that’s what I was to do.
Please tell. What foods bring back detailed memories for you?
Tags: The Girls
August 28th, 2014 · Comments Off
Sara is imitating an eyeglass commercial, but all the same, I find her humor to be original. For as rough as yesterday was, today was the polar opposite. Was it the nice, long swim after school? Maybe. Was it the warm shower, the full belly, and getting the homework started much earlier? Perhaps. In a surprising twist of fate, Sara sat down with her math homework, and independently walked through it like a champ. I dare say, I think she thoroughly enjoyed it.
It doesn’t hurt we started with her grabbing my reading glasses, and making me laugh until my sides hurt. “I’m a serious business woman. Where are my charts?!”
And it hit me I’ve been quite dismal at saying the good things, which is so sad. There are so, so many good things to say:
The upper management of this apartment complex may care very little for their tenants, but the people here on site clearly do. It’s true I’ve never lived anywhere infested with such a wildly differentiated variety of bugs (today I found a dead toad in my watering can, but that’s a story for another day). But I’ve also never had a maintenance team stop by and help me wash my windows, or just check in to make sure nothing else has exploded (and then we laugh until our sides hurt, because we can’t think of anything not yet broken). Despite the nightmare we’ve been through, our day-to-day repairs were shared with very decent people. There have been blessings in this oddly comical horror story. I’ve been grateful for every last one of them, even if I failed to say it here.
The house we are building is my favorite place to hang out these days. It may be covered in drywall dust, but it’s home. Yesterday I had the pleasure of walking through each room with my favorite painter/remodeling/closet/if I can dream it, he can build it guy (Tim Edens, and if you’re in Indy, you won’t find a better team). My realtor stopped by, “doing her rounds”. (Jennifer Goodspeed, and if you’re in Indy, you simply won’t find a better realtor). I was standing in a sunny house, surrounded by people with my best interests in mind. How can that not feel great? I wanted to hug that muggy air, because when this is all said and done, our family has someplace to go.
The girls are having a fantastic start to the school year. Their academic maturity is starting to show, even if only in fleeting glimmers. They love their school. I love their school. We have a strong community that has cheered me through every moment of this adventure. Without these witnesses, I would be lost in my own thoughts, instead of screaming with laughter over coffee with people I love. They have equally ridiculous stories of building dream homes with unplugged sump pumps that flooded a brand new basement, which then caught on fire. Stories of building, discovering game-ending flaws, moving out, rebuilding…”persistently starting over again and again” seems to be the theme of families who dare to move. I love these women, and I love how their stories make me feel. Unalone. I feel held up and more importantly, held together.
Someday, the 4 of us will look back on this 6-month stretch, and we’ll recant the incredulous stories. Son-in-laws will sit with their jaws wide open, swearing we are exaggerating. But here’s my trump card: I recorded every last tale…right here. And you read it. You’ll vouch for me. Or to quote my friend Kathy, “You can’t make this stuff up.” Sometimes we remember phenomenal stories. I climbed the Great Wall of China! But often, our best stories are full of unpredictable woe. Tales of misfortune so uncharted, one must laugh at the sheer act of survival. We marvel at our own tenacity, and ability to endure together, as a family.
Together. Always together. Not even a ghost story beats the history of how we went through this together. Godspeed, my dear witnesses. For your Labor Day adventures, Godspeed.
Tags: The Girls