Thursday, November 06, 2014

Mama's Secret Recipes—Yours for the Taking

Wandering around the grocery store for a dinner option the other night, I contemplated my pantry, versus my mother's, when we were growing up.

My mother was an enigma in the kitchen: kind of a terrible cook, yet an adventurous one.

Of course she could make a nice salad and bake a chicken or throw a steak into a cast iron skillet. Anything fancier  came from a kit. Chef Boyardee boxed spaghetti dinners—a can of tomato paste and a packet of spice—add water to make sauce, and Italian! Muy Ooo la la!!

She was just never good at choosing two ingredients that went well together. She had a recipe called "chicken and sauerkraut for one." I wonder if she didn't write it that way because "chicken and sauerkraut for four" didn't fly in our household.

On the other hand, she was using cilantro in this berg for years before anyone had ever heard of it. She dragged us into the only Asian store in town, and bought cilantro, and fresh mushrooms—also newfangled—when midwestern fungus-eating hoity-toitys only bought canned. She fixed exotic dishes with tongue. She invented a weird sloppy joe recipe consisting of onion soup and flour.

I ended up walking out of the store thinking we were probably better fed than we ever knew, and we never went hungry, and probably my sister and I were kind of assholes for giving her dishes names like "Garbage Soup."

Honestly, I thunk myself into a bit of shame and chagrin for being such a brat.

Tonight, however, I was flipping through her recipe box and found this:


Jellied Prune Whip: Orange jello, egg white, and a jar of baby prunes.

...

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

The moral of the story: I wish that my sister was here so we could slap our knees and laugh "we weren't assholes! We were right!"

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Honeymoon Notes: Lighthouses, Phobias, and Tennis Shoes

Clint and I are honeymooning in Nag's Head, North Carolina. We're balancing our time with a bit of sightseeing each day, and a lot of crashing on the beach, which happens to be just below our balcony.

Tuesday morning we set off to tour a few lighthouses in the area. "Touring" means "photographing" for me, and "climbing to the tippy-top" for Clint. I came to terms with my fear of heights a few years ago when I thought I wanted to zipline in Cancun. Climbing the stairs made me hyperventilate, so I'm not sure why I thought I wanted to jump off the tower at the top. Lesson learned! I sent Clint off alone to climb these stairs


(Photo credit: Clint Weidert)

To the top of Bodie's Lighthouse:


And promised that I would take this photo:


When we arrived, I noted this sign in the lawn in front of our car:


It was a shortly-trimmed lawn as far as I could see, and I joked on Facebook that it was probably just a great way to keep people off of it.

Still, while Clint joined his tour group, I opted to trek down a surrounding boardwalk to a nearby lookout point, and it wasn't long before I met up with a family admiring this guy:


"It's a black snake," one guy said; "they are so beautiful." Beautiful my ass! I skirted by and used the super-de-dooper zoom on my camera for this shot, and continued down the boardwalk, now scanning left and right, checking the lawn and the boardwalk.

I've never really liked snakes, but I could recognize that for the most part, it was a phobia handed down from my Mother. She had a few childhood stories: A snake fell out of a tree onto her at the San Diego Zoo when she was a kid, and a blue-racer chased after her once as a child. She hated snakes. Truth be told, while they kind of creep me out, I've never really been face-to-face with one to know if I would be terrified or not. 

After meeting that big guy, I confirmed that I was kind of scared of them. The guy that thought they were beautiful served as a bit of a buffer, but he was gone now, and I sure as hell didn't want to encounter another on my own.

I moved on down the boardwalk then, and, after inspecting for snakes, leaned over this rail to see what I could in this freshwater pond.



I spotted a giant crab lumbering about in the muddy bottom, and was busy watching it eat, when a very large woman came trundling up the boardwalk, screaming. "Eeeeee, ohhhhhh!!!" I turned to find her coming right at me, pointing at my feet. I screamed too, then, dancing and moving away from what I assumed was another 5-foot long black snake, when she gushed,

"I just love your shoes!"



Holy Mother of God. I thanked her and set about trying to catch my breath and slow my heartbeat. I had to laugh, later, that I opted out of climbing the stairs to the top of the lighthouse to avoid the very sensations of fear and anxiety that I ended up encountering anyway. 

Phobias are kind of interesting. Even though I have an intellectual understanding that a set of stairs into the sky aren't going to hurt me, the wobbling knees, churning stomach, and vertigo still set in. Even though I know on some level that a snake "is more afraid of me than I am of it." [::coughbullshitcough::] I will scream my head off and dance a jig at the possibility that one is slithering towards me, before I even verify it.

Things I Learned on Day Tuesday of our Honeymoon: 

1. Irrational or not, I *am* afraid of snakes.

2. "Bodie" is pronounced "Body." It has 219 stairs, and two 1,000 watt bulbs (one is a back-up, in the event the other goes out) that is on 2.5 seconds, off for 2.5, on for 2.5, then off for 20 seconds, and every mariner knows that is Bodie-Body's pattern.

3. I have great tennis shoes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I Always Did Like Valentine's Day

Last February 14, Clint called me at work and asked if I could cut out a little early to meet him at his parent's bank; he needed a witness to sign some trust papers. We were in the middle of a minor snow storm, and leaving--and getting home--early sounded good to me anyway.

I trudged out into it then; the snow was coming down faster than bank maintenance could keep up, so I pulled into a parking lot piled with about 4 inches of snow. I spotted Clint's truck and tried to grab a spot next to him but none were available. I ended up exiting the lot, going back around, parking farther away, and scuffling up to the bank door in snow up to my shins.

As I approached the door, Clint called me over to his truck. "Hey! Come over here and give me a kiss! Remember what happened here 8 years ago?" 

I did remember. I had parked in that space 8 years ago for our class reunion ice breaker, and we were among the few that chatted until the very end. Clint and I grew up together and were close friends in junior high and high school. Well, as close as awkward junior-high kids could be; he was my racing buddy, my friend I invited to come to the track every weekend when Dad raced. My sister and I were allowed one friend each, and he was mine.

We reminisced until Bunny's closed the door at 2 a.m., and Clint chivalrously walked me back to my car, a block away from his own, and kissed me goodnight at my car door.

8 years ago. Our first kiss in the bank parking lot.

This Valentine's Day we stood in the slush and the snow, hugging, while Clint remembered: "Our first kiss. I waited 30 years to do that."

The next thing I knew, still holding my hand, he was down on one knee, getting soaked to the skin, pulling out a ring-sized box he made himself, and from it, this very beautiful ring, and he asked me to marry him. I said yes, of course, and he put that beautiful ring on my finger.



Then he pulled himself up out of the slush, pulled another ring out of his pocket, and said "Since you said yes to that one, you might like this one too."



~~~~~

Clint and I were married last Saturday, September 20, on the deck we designed and built together, at our home. All of our children were with us; Son and Grandson Craig and Will stood up with Clint, Daughter Jen and son Brian were on my side, and our son-in-law Bill became ordained to perform the service. 

We are gleeful, and incredibly blessed to have so many loving friends and family!

WooHoo, ya'll!

Cheers!







P.S. There were no papers to sign at that bank.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tough Day

I recently made an interesting personal observation: I don't cry much these days. I compare to 5 years ago, when my sister was dying of cancer, my mother was losing her mind with Alzheimer's, but just coherent enough for Teri's illness to be new and shocking to her every day, and my son was preparing to go to Iraq.

I cried a lot then, but oddly enough, still mostly in private. I usually cried in the car. I cried when I drove from home to Mom, then I bucked up and dealt with things. I cried between Mom and Teri's house, then got my shit together. I cried from Teri's to work, where I pulled it together to put in my 8 hours. 

A week from now will mark the 5-year anniversary of Teri's passing. She died on Labor Day Weekend, and, while she is always on my mind, I feel like she's sitting on my soul every year at this time. 5 years. I can't believe it. I reflect on our daily conversations, and how she actually wondered where we would each be after this much time. I often wish I could tell her that it's no easier now than it was on Day 1.

It remains to be seen, however, that all of those terrible circumstances that had me bonking into walls in 2009 don't exist, and life is good, and I laugh now, much more than I cry.

However. 5 years! She's been on my mind, with this "landmark" anniversary. I can hardly believe it.

~~~

This morning I walked into Carle Clinic for a doctor appt., and was directed to a self-check-in. Upon verifying my identity, a screen popped up: Is this still your Emergency Contact? It was Teri. Teri's first and last name. Teri's address, and her phone number and her work phone number, and her relationship to me.

It hit me in the gut. I added Clint as my Emergency Contact. And then there were 2: Clint and Teri. I stood there, and hit the giant red "X" next to Teri's name. I scanned my card, printed my receipt, and went upstairs.

~~~

Perimenopause, my diagnosis is, from one of the nicest Ob-Gyn doctors I have ever met. Exactly what I expected. There is medication for my problem (women can guess, men don't want to hear about it)--BUT. But there must be a "procedure" first. A biopsy. Usually a woman has fair warning, and can take some Tylenol ahead of time, but if I want to get this mess taken care of ASAP, we can do it sooner. Like, now. The biopsy is procedural and routine. It allows the doctors and powers that be to say, "see? Those meds are the right thing to do, because this over here isn't the problem," when the results come back that there isn't a problem.

I opted for the procedure, sans Tylenol prep. It had to be performed twice, but was over quickly, and was only vaguely uncomfortable. The doctor noted, as she sat me up, that she'd like to clone me as a patient, stoic and calm as I was. 

As the sweet nurse agreed with her, out of nowhere I fell into tears. I mean, I. lost. it. The ugly cry. The two of them stood there, stunned. I knew my behavior was a surprise, but the more I tried to compose myself, the harder I cried. 

I finally managed to get out that Teri was still my Emergency Contact, and that I was feeling fragile when I walked in. And then ticking off my family's medical history--all of them essentially gone--when I'm naked but for a sheet, is hard every time I go to the doctor. Followed up by an on-the-spot decision about a medical procedure, and finding the statement "this really is a crazy amount of blood" both vindicating and unnerving--well, I guess I just lost my ability to buck up.

~~~

It's a strange mix: grief and hormones and aging and life's natural progression. While I felt a bit undone this morning, I know that women my age are losing their composure in clinics all over the world, and I'm not the first patient my doctor has ever watched burst into tears. I'm 51 and fabulous, dammit, and all of this is not unexpected. I drove myself home, just fine, in need of an afternoon's sleep, and that was it. 

As tough a morning as it was, in the end, I can only circle back to how this post began: I don't cry much, these days, and I cherish that. One "public" outburst is pish-posh after the seasoned veteran I became in 2009. The pendulum may swing back to tough times some day, but in the meantime, I appreciate where I am right now.

Also, I miss my sister.






















Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Seaweeditee

We are vacationing in Destin, Florida, with a couple dozen of our best friends. Sounds like it would be hectic, but it's not. We're all here and we all do our own thing, and we bump into this family or that at the beach or the pool, but everyone pretty much does their own thing.

When we checked in the clerk at the front desk gave us a list of rules to follow. For instance, balcony lights go off early, because sea turtles are nesting between the months of May and October. The clerk threw in another tidbit:

"It's also manatee season. One may come up and bump you while you're swimming, but don't worry about it. They're just big dumb cows. They're actually nicknamed "sea cows."

My initial response was "Oh, my God, I hope a manatee bumps me!!! That would be AWESOME!"

A few hours later, however, Clint was regaling Steven with the manatee story, and he said "she said they'll bump into you. Like a cat!"

Steven responded, "Yeah, a 1,000 pound cat."

Remember when I thought I wanted to zipline? And I forgot that I hate heights, and signed up anyway? See...I didn't think that through. Actually, I don't think I've ever blogged the photo of me crying while I flew over a canopy of trees in Mexico. It is not a pretty picture, is why.

And so, with Clint and Steven's observations, I realized that if a 1,000 pound cat swam up and bumped me with it's big nose while I was floating in the ocean I'd probably come right up out of the water like a dolphin and make it to shore without ever touching the water.

We've spent the last 4 days, then, floating in around in the gulf, and every time I see this (see lower right, front)...


My head screams "MANATEE!!!" and I backpedal from the big dumb oafs.

Only every single time, it's been a patch of seaweed.

We have thus coined the term "Seaweeditee." "Calm down; it's just a seaweeditee."

Tomorrow morning, we're rising early to jet-ski with...dolphins. At this point in time, I think that I'm going to love (love, love) skimming along next to an entire school of 1,000 pound fish with 18 to 28 conical teeth (thanks, Wikipedia). 

The waterproof camera is charged. I will either post the pictures, or never, ever, post them. 

Wait and see.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

I dashed into Casey's this afternoon for a big 'ol fountain soda, and when I came out, there was a car parked next to mine with a cute little kid strapped into the passenger seat. His father wasn't far off, just grabbing a newspaper. 

Said cute little kid--and I mean freaking adorable; TV cute--gave me a wide-eyed look as I turned to open my car door. Just as I began to hop in, his sweet little voice called out "Happy Father's Day!" I turned around to see him leaning toward his window with a beaming smile. I smiled back and said "Thank you! You too!"

My speaking to his child brought the father running, and I could see a look of concern on his face. I knew that look. I could see his thoughts: "What did you just say to my kid?"

I got into my car and paused for a few seconds to settle my soda and put my seat belt on, giving him a second to speak to his son. When I figured I'd given them enough time to straighten it out, I turned to look at them. The father had his forehead on the steering wheel, laughing so hard, and when he turned to make eye contact with me, we both just burst into another round of laughter.

It has been a good day, even though Clint worked all day. I delivered gifts to him from myself and from his daughter. I left a bottle of bubbles at my father-in-law's grave. I was proud proud proud when I found out that my son called Clint to tell him Happy Father's Day. I had a jolly laugh with complete strangers, and witnessed another father in love with his funny kid.

Really, I had a great Father's Day.

Water, Roots, Deep Conversation with a Jalapeno Plant, and Unsolicited Relationship Advise to a Loved One

I've spent a good part of the weekend trying to get a grip on my garden, which has gotten away from me. Sigh. I know. Already.

A couple of weeks ago I purchased more plants, and life got a little chaotic, so they sat, in their flats.  The plants were larger, and the roots sat confined in those little plastic packages. They'd become so compacted and dried that the water I'd sprinkled over the them just sat on top, and would not soak in. 

Yesterday I sat and analyzed them, and came to terms with the fact that I was probably out $40 and had killed 2 flats of marigolds and a couple of jalapeno plants.

I decided I had nothing to lose by trying though, so started the day by pulling the plants out of their tight pants--I mean, their tight plastic containers--and sat them right down into tubs of water. I let them soak their feet for a day. I knew full well I might end with a couple of buckets of mud with dead plants in them, but I gave it a shot.

Here are the peppers, yesterday:



And here they are now, my coffee companions this morning:



I slept in this morning, and now on my second cup of coffee, I sit contemplating how important water is, and how it has the same effects on our human bodies as it does on those little plants, and how I wish someone would bring me some scrambled eggs.

Putting off scrambling my own eggs, then, I sat thinking about the roots of those plants. All squished in in there, taking on the shape of the container they were stuck in, growing and growing into a tight knot, and getting sicker. And once released from it, beginning to reach out and expand, and absorb what it needed to thrive again. 

We really do have a lot in common with a plant, don't we?

I spoke this week with a friend that has just ended a relationship. A relationship with a "partner" that belittled her and made her feel bad about herself, and made her second guess her own good instincts. A "partner" that would turn the tables on her and trip her up and make her feel a little crazy. When you're in that relationship with someone--and look, most of us have been in that relationship with someone--that stuff trickles over, outside of the relationship--into your self-esteem, into your personal life, your job, your hobbies, your dreams, your friends, your family.

Now, entertain me, and let's say we're all plants.

My friend's ex-boyfriend--and this is not a man-bashing exercise, the situation is gender-reversible--is that shitty piece of plastic that those plants came in. That sheath that kept her from expanding her roots and reaching out and absorbing what she needs to thrive. I was there once, 30 years ago, a story for another day, but I still remember how that shitty plastic sheath can actually come to feel like home--you're planted in it, for God's Sake. You come to think you actually need it to survive--it has you convinced that it is the only thing holding you together, and you cannot live without it. You see what it does there, right? It's very sneaky plastic; that plastic is a real sonofabitch.

Note to my darling friend:

You've stepped out of the plastic flat. Be one with my jalapeno plant: Drink lots and lots of water now, and grow and grow and grow. Your reach can be endless. And the next time a piece of plastic asks you out for dinner, run for your life. You don't have to be polite to plastic; you can be downright rude. It really doesn't matter if it thinks you're a bitch, ok? 


If you don't believe me, just ask my marigolds. Marigolds don't lie.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Legacy

Last night we went to dinner with Clint's Uncle John and Aunt Judy. John turned 79 today, and he and Judy are real pistols. I fretted over choosing a restaurant they'd like--they're "older," I thought, so nothing too spicy, nothing too boozy, etc. We settled on a great old bar-restaurant called Crane Alley. The minute we walked in, Judy said "I want a beer!" and John followed suit by ordering a smoked chipotle beer for himself, and told us how much he loved big, loud places. He can't hear well in them, he said, but he loooooooves watching people have fun.

They told us about their wedding in Las Vegas (not the first for either of them), in which they met "the cousins"--an annual gathering of 8. They intended to sneak off after lunch one day, and then return at dinner time and announce they'd gotten married. It was one disaster after another: their intended witness took off before they could whisper their secret plans; Judy's name was misspelled on the license application, then they argued whether she should put that she was divorced or widowed (she was both—divorced once, then widowed from her 2nd husband), and the license had to be redone 3 times, to the chagrin of a grouchy clerk. The courthouse couldn't then dig up a legal witness, so they gave up and ran into a cheesy chapel. They finally got the job done and were then forced to sit through a sales pitch to purchase a video of their wedding. When the movie was put into the VCR player, nothing played: the staff had forgotten to turn on the camera.

John told us also of a story about going to a one-room schoolhouse when he was a young boy, and knocking the two front teeth out of a classmate, when he threw a block at him. He lived, he said, with the guilt of knocking that kid's teeth out, but upon seeing him again when they were adults, the guy had teeth! All of his teeth, and they didn't appear to be dentures! He said he wanted to ask how it could be, but on the other hand, didn't want to bring it up.

I noted, "Maybe you knocked out his baby teeth, that he was going to lose anyway." Uncle John gave me a blank stare, and finally said, "You know. I never thought of that." I'm not sure why we all found that so funny, but we ended up howling, laughing. John could finally let go of knocking someone's front teeth out, after 75 years. What a relief.

***

This was just one evening that we shared with family, in the last 10 days or so. Clint's father, Alan Weidert, passed away in his sleep on May 23. He'd been declining from Parkinson's disease for some time.

We have been busy and stressed, and grieving for him and for each other, but what has been at the forefront of the last 10 days or so is the close circle of friends and family that gathered to hold one another up, and celebrate Alan's life. While we have cried, we have also laughed and laughed and laughed, and that is his legacy.

I want to tell all of the stories I heard, in the last 10 days, and all that we did with the time spent with family and friends that gathered. As I said, we laughed, we cried. We ate, we drank. We went to a few garage sales, and even to an acupuncture clinic together. I may circle back and show the photos and tell the stories, or life, as it is wont to do, may move forward faster than I can write about it.

Time will tell, I guess. I know that if I don't get around to it, I still have another angel keeping track, and laughing along.