Remembrance….looking back on 9-11
September 11, 2010

I woke up early this pretty, sunny morning thinking…it happened today, nine years ago. I had been walking our beloved dog Scout, later than usual, and when I strolled through the front door, my husband told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Tower. And thus began, like for so many of you, a day of  watching things you didn’t think were even possible…things more terrible than we shall ever hope to see in again in our lifetimes. Scout was alive then, so was my little Mother, so were so many  who do not walk the earth today.

And what lessons do we take away from the horror of that day? Honestly, I’m not sure. That sometimes terrible things that you could never foresee happen. That sometimes those terrible things happen to good people who do not deserve it. I do not believe that it was meant for any of those who died to have been where they were, not do I believe that those who went to work late, or called in sick, or were away on vacation, were saved for some reason. They were simply lucky..fortunate my Mother would say, not lucky. Lucky is when you find a five dollar bill on the  street…fortunate is when you escape death while others did not.

The only lesson I know for sure is that life is fragile and fleeting, never made more clear to us than on that day. When we walk out our front doors, none of us knows for sure if we will return to our families that evening. We operate under the assumption that we will…but one never knows. So savor the sunshine today and hope for some rain… kiss your children and call your Mother, as they will not always be here. As Robert Herrick wrote in the 1600s….Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:…And this same flower that smiles to-day, To-morrow will be dying
.  He wrote the poem about fleeting beauty, but it is also about the fleeting nature of life in general. So we all go forth today remembering those who are no longer with us, thankful that we have another day, hopefully to put to good use. Savor it, there won’t be another day just like it…ever. Isnt’ that an astonishing thought?

Sunday Night Dinners…..
August 23, 2010

Sunday evening dinner...supper as my Mom would say...

I adore Sunday evening dinners….or suppers, as my late Mother would have called them. She rarely used the word dinner…in the south, especially on Sunday, dinner was served around 1:00 after church let out….and later that evening, you had supper. But however you refer to it….I adore the meal. It’s a lovely, informal time to have friends or family over. You can respectably and without comment,  start early…5 or six, no later. After all, people have to get up and go to work the next day(and let’s be honest…secretly want to watch Mad Men and the fabulousness of Don Draper when they get home-or after their guests leave). And my daughter is fond of trip-tropping over to hang out a little on Sunday, get some free food, and do her laundry without having to pay her weight in quarters to the machines at her apartment…you know the drill. We of course, adore seeing her, and figure good food and free laundry is a small price for her company.

Tomato risotto....cooking away....

This past Sunday evening, as promised, I made the tomato risotto, complete with roasted tomatoes and garlic, served with some sautéed shrimp on the side and roasted green beans. The risotto wasn’t difficult…or not any more than any risotto is. It does require some attention at the stove, stirring and stirring and stirring as the rice absorbs the wine and then the hot broth….but that’s about it. I don’t really measure the amount I put in…I just keep adding liquid and cooking until the rice is just cooked(not too much!).

The finished result.....dinnertime...

Shrimp sauteing...and I boiled the shells in the broth for flavor...

 One does want a little  protein, and Whole Foods had these lovely wild shrimp, which  I sauteed with some olive oil and spices…simple. Needed something green(besides sprigs of thyme)….roasted green beans filled the bill…you know how I love Roasted Veges of all varities. Loved it all.

Oh, and Saturday night, I made a Vegetable Gratin that I hadn’t prepared in a long time. Only this time I used an OXO Mandoline that my  Mom gave me a couple of years ago. It is definitely a keeper of a gadget to have around…

My OXO mandoline!!

 Here’s the terrible part….it was the first time I ever used it.  It’s shameful, really. Mother always loved buying her “girls”,  things she thought they needed or might want, and I so wish I had used it more while she was alive and told her how much I liked it, but….there it is. Some things can’t be undone. And what a shame from a cooking point of view too…because it created the nicest, most even slices of potato and zucchini I’ve ever seen…several passes and it’s done.

Let the layering begin...don't forget the tomatoes...

Layer the potatoes on the bottom of your oiled pan, drizzle with salt and pepper and olive oil….some spices if you like, then zuchini…drizzle…then sliced tomatoes…drizzle…baked at 350 for 45 minutes or so, uncovered. Simple, but delicious. Bon appetit!

Report from the hospital zone…..
July 23, 2008

I have been at best, incommunicado…and my apologies for that. My little 88 year old Mommy has been in the hospital, and I had to go help my sister out. And writing just falls by the wayside, though it probably would have been a nice distraction. For any of you who have aging parents, you know the tag team thing this can become with siblings….and sooner or later, it is your turn. So, when I got the call Saturday morning that Mom had to go back to the hospital(she had been there much of last week, and then released), I knew there was only one thing to be done. The lovely feng shui of my Saturday morning outdoor yoga class(more on that tomorrow) was erased, to be replaced by the prospect of flying south, and several nights on a hard hospital recliner, surrounded by nurses that come in the middle of the night, and worry about a delicate little woman, who is, as my sisters agree, like a house of cards. One card goes, and it’s flattened.

I won’t bother you with her various health problems…though she’d make an interesting case study for many a doctor , and has, with her odd and interesting collection of ailments. You name it, I think she’s had it, or has it.

But here was my bottom line after flying home last night and my advice for you. If you have a loved one in the hospital…you really should be staying with them, unless they are only in for a couple of tests, and not very sick (in which case you probably wouldn’t be in the hospital!). I say this, because most hospitals, even the best, are  understaffed and overworked. I think most nurses would agree with me. One PCA (personal care assistant) who does all the hardest labor….helping people with their baths, getting them to the toilet, cleaning them, cleaning up after them….one PCA can have 17 patients. At least ours did. If you think all your needs will be quickly met, what happens quick is that you will be disabused of those quaint notions. And not that the intentions aren’t the best…they are, and the staff by and large, was kind and caring. But on several occasions, medicine that my Mom was not to receive was brought in. Those who are inclined to take whatever is put before them, put themselves in harms way. We had to say…”She’s not supposed to be getting that.” Hmmmmm, much perusing of the chart….”well, it doesn’t say that here”, blah, blah….so many miscommunications. A cast of doctors…one comes in and says…”congestive heart failure”…the next day another one say, “that’s debatable”. And not that I mind a different opinion, I welcome it, but it sometimes seems that no one is communicating with anyone else. So you better keep up with it.

I’m home now, and so enjoyed sleeping in my own bed last night. Sister # 1 is on duty and calling with updates, bless her heart, to take a little of the stress off  sister # 3 who lives nearest my Mom…she gets the brutal brunt of it…and bless her heart too. I wonder. What happens to the elderly who don’t have anyone when they go to the hospital?  Seriously, what happens? Who gets them what they need…a  sip of water, quick help to the bathroom (or in our case a bedside potty-there’s a fresh experience for you), your hairbrush, your toothbrush? I knew Mom was feeling a little better when she asked for her mirror and brush. She stared into the mirror for a minute and remarked, “I look like an old woman.” We started to laugh….and didn’t have to add the obvious…that she is an old woman. A lot of folks never make it to 88, for Pete’s sake. But she’s a feisty one. And she’s still standing. Kinda.

The Dream Mother’s Day….
May 9, 2008

tvYep, there they were this morning…The Today Show with a kid-friendly Mother’s day breakfast. Wait a minute, isn’t it supposed to be  mom-friendly? It’s interesting to hear what women say they really want for Mother’s Day….some are happy with a card, others need some face time, others want a really nice (jewelry) gift, while one woman here at WBAL, who shall remain anonymous, said, “What I’d really like is for my husband to take the kids somewhere and and just leave me alone.” Now that sounds a little more harsh than she meant it, but I know exactly what she means. The one thing moms don’t get very often, is some time for themselves, by themselves, to do whatever they want. Alone time. Read, garden, listen to music, watch a movie you want to see….with no one there, fixing you what is usually a terrible breakfast and serving it to you, way too early  in bed, while they watch you eat it, and you have to ooh and aah over it, too.

What many would really like, is a morning to sleep late, in a peaceful, quiet house. Get up when you like, wander to the kitchen, where there is fresh coffee made and waiting for you, maybe a plate of croissants artfully arranged with some nice jams and some fruit, and a pretty bouquet of flowers. Some soft jazz is playing….can you hear it?  The card would read, “I have the kids at a movie/Science Center/The Harbor/a ballgame…and we won’t be back until later, and we’ll have dinner with us, so enjoy your day. Call if you get lonely, and we’ll come home, but otherwise, you do what you’dlike to do. Oh, and I picked up a couple of movies you might enjoy…they’re on the dvd player. Relax, you deserve it, sweetie!”

Have any of you ever received such a gift? I have not, and for most women it’s not likely to happen. Not sure why, except that many guys don’t really wantto host a whole day of the kids, and make your breakfast….so the first morning I spoke of , is the one that usually happens. Here’s your “breakfast”, here are your gifts, ok, now it’s business as usual. What’s for dinner, honey?

Now don’t get me wrong…there’s something beautifully sweet about the terrible breakfast served by anxious little hands….there is. And I’ve had quite a few. But every once in a while, maybe something different would be in order, something kinda decadent, so that when everyone returns from their big day with Daddy…you’re really glad to see them.  Now that both my kids are out of the house, I get plenty of alone time, so when one of them comes home for Momma’s Day (and one of them is), it’s a treat. And I won’t get breakfast in bed…but we will eat brunch at home….then my son and the lovely Jennifer will drive back to New York, and we will attend the funeral of a wonderful and much-missed neighbor that afternoon. just a reminder how quickly life goes by…and to enjoy it, whether you get burnt toast or not. Happy Momma’s Day all you  mommas out there!

Parent/child angst…..better call Mom!!
April 29, 2008

I’ve had some really interesting responses to my previous blog about “taciturn emails” from my son who lives in New York. And I can see that the issue isn’t just on the parental side, but also from kids…grown kids, of course….who feel at least some degree of angst and guilt that they HAVEN’T CALLED MOM/DAD IN WAY TOO LONG!

Oh, I’ll definitely call tomorrow, then tomorrow goes by and the next day until it’s been weeks. Or longer. And it is true, that when you don’t speak with people for some time, you have less to talk about when you do. Oh you may say “How can that be? If a lot of time has gone by you have tons to tell!” Yeah, but where do you start…you just can’t begin a litany of everything that has happened in your life, ’cause how boring is that, and now that I think about it, not all that much has happened, certainly nothing big or all that exciting, so maybe I just say, “Oh, not much same old, same old. Everyone is fine….” Blah, blah, blah.

But when you speak to someone on a daily, or weekly basis, you are so much more in tune with the minutia of someone’s life. Yes, I know, sometimes too much minutia. But really, isn’t that what life really is? Truly big things don’t happen all that much in life, and I might like to know something interesting you cooked for dinner, or how your garden is coming along, or about an interesting dream you had last night. Life is made up of little moments…lots and lot and lots of little moments. And if we keep them all to ourselves, then people don’t really know what our lives are about, because we don’t tell them.

I call my Mom every weekday morning on my way to work. She’s on my cellphone speed dial. And before you give me a gold star, let me say this has only started in the past few years. I used to call a couple of times a week, once a week when my Father was alive. But on that drive to work, it’s a time to connect a little, and just chat. Trust me, big things rarely happen from one day to the next, but I hear how she’s feeling, how she slept, how dinner was in the dining room last night, and sometimes we even venture into politics and other topics. But I know she really looks forward to my call, so I feel really bad if I forget one morning. And I know that one day, perhaps not too far away, she will not be receiving my calls anymore. So I redouble my efforts to stay in touch…about the little things.

Oh, and to Elaine….I have long ago learned the end run. If Jesse doesn’t answer me, Jen usually will.