Friday, August 31, 2012

You Say Tomato...

I can't resist the red deliciousness of ripe, juicy summer tomatoes. . .plus, they are sooooooo good for you, body and soul.
Tomatoes are considered a superfood because they contain a whole series of anticancer nutrients, such as lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your body against degenerative diseases by neutralizing free radicals.

What a mouthful!  In plain English what I'm trying to say is that tomatoes build up your immune system, the body's front line system for fighting diseases.  In fact, doctors have found that a maintaining a diet high in the lycopene reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration.
Staying healthy is especially important while grieving the loss of a loved one.  Grief is physical as well as emotional.  You may lose your appetite while grieving and tomatoes are an easy and fast way to pull something nutritious together for yourself.  They can be cooked or not; either way it's important to remember to eat.
Wow!  All of those healthy and healing benefits -- just from eating tomatoes -- and that's easy breezy this time of year when tomatoes are plentiful at farmer's market, grocery stores or if you're really lucky, maybe even in your backyard.
If you can't figure out what to do with your bounty of tomatoes, or you are looking for a new way to eat your fresh tomatoes, here's a recipe for Tomato Basil Bruschetta distributed by FRESHFARM Markets ( from a food website called Annie's Eats (
Courtesy of Annie's Eats
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tbsp. basil, minced
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Pepper, to taste
1½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. finely grated Parmesan
Toasted baguette slices, for serving

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; mix well to blend. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Spoon the tomato mixture on top of toasted baguette slices and serve.

Source: Annie original

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Fun

When I was a child my mother used to let me and my siblings sit on the front steps of our house after the sun had set and it was nightime.  We had all had our baths and she would let us outside in our pajamas.  What risk takers we were!
We loved it because we got to stay up late since there wasn't school and there also was an incredible feeling of freedom and naughtiness.  We would play games and look up at the stars in the night sky and sometimes eat sliced bananas in a bowl with milk.
Spontaneous Summer.  Relaxing Summer.  Special Summer.  Healing Summer.
I think you get the idea by now that Summer is my favorite season.  This week, I have been noticing as we approach the end of August, that every day, in a small way, the sun is setting earlier.  A new school year has started, preseason football games are airing on national television and the beginning of September and Labor Day is almost upon us.

I don't want the seasons to change. I think of Summer as my BFF and don't want to say good-bye.  I want summer to go on and on and on. . .
What do you love about Summer?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New Orleans Deserves A Break

My son drywalling in New Orleans
The people who live in the magical city of New Orleans know about resilience.  In fact, Webster's dictionary should probably publish a picture of the city of New Orleans next to the word "resilience" to add depth to the word's definition.
Residents of New Orleans have proved over and over that they do have an incredible inner strength that gives them the "can-do" attitude to forge ahead and bounce back from natural disasters, the worst of which was Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and now is Hurricane Isaac.
The rebuilding of New Orleans after Katrina is a cause that is close to my heart because my son traveled there twice and spent time clearing debris, painting houses, drywalling and even doing some tilework to help in that effort. He said reaching out to help and meet the people who owned the houses they worked on and walking through the communities that Katrina destroyed was heartbreaking but also rewarding and educational. 
I am hoping and praying for the safety of the city and its people because I never want to turn on the television again and see the devastation and desperation that aired when news stories showed New Orleans and its thousands of abandoned citizens after Katrina hit the city and caused millions of dollars in damage.
True to its spirit, New Orleans has taken more than its fair share from Mother Nature and has endured, as it will no matter what Isaac throws its way.  May the rebuilt and restrengthened levees hold back the deluge of rain because New Orleans definitely deserves a break!


My son (in sunglasses) and his friends

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Zen Me

Zen Garden Number One

"I wait for time to heal the pain and
 raise me to my feet once again --
so that I can start a new path,

my own path,
the one that will make me whole again."

                                                      ~ Jack Canfield, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul II

Zen Garden Number Two

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hope and Healing

Courtesy of The Magic Onions

I love this picture!

Serene and peaceful, can't you feel the healing power of the flowers?  The first time I saw it, I mentally slipped into the photograph and felt the aura of  its calming vibe.  I could practically smell the beautiful flowers in the shape of a majestic sun surrounding the Nature Girl.  
Ommmmmmmm.  The healing is starting and it can happen for all of us but we need to be patient.  Healing takes time.  The most important thing about restoring your mental and emotional health after the loss of a loved one is to think positively: if you want to heal then it will happen for you.  Even if you don't have the energy right now to feel positive, try to keep a small positive thought in the back of your memory.  It will help to carry you through the pain.
Healing is defined as restoring to health or soundness, to repair or go through a process to cure your inner self.  In a sense, you are seeking to come to grips with the reality of what has happened to you.  The numbness you feel is your body's way of giving you time to catch up with your loss and the new changes in your life.

I found that the first step towards healing from the loss of a loved one is to allow yourself to feel your feelings. You may want to ignore the feelings because they are so painful but trust me, if you are patient with yourself, you can work through or process the waves of emotions coming at you.
Someone you cared about A LOT, someone you loved A LOT is no longer with you physically or emotionally.  It takes a long time to really deal with the shock of your loss but eventually time will help you get control of your emotions and give you the courage to continue to move forward with your life.  It has been almost nine years since my husband died and I still have setbacks.  Sometimes I will read something that reminds me of him or I see something that reminds me of him or of our life together.

I try to talk about it or I try to embrace the memory.  Ignoring or denying what has happened only makes it makes it more painful and more overwhelming.  Grief is a process and in expressing your grief you are allowing yourself to heal and to be hopeful.

It's not that you will never be happy again.  It's more that your life has changed and you won't be exactly the person that you were before your loved one died.  You must rebuild and find a way to move forward.

We each have different resources but here are some suggestions to help in your healing:

-- spend time in nature

-- listen to music

-- find a quiet place, breathe deeply and relax

-- reach out to a friend

-- join a group such as a church group or a community group

-- strengthen a family tie

-- or lie in the grass, feel the warmth of the sun and smell the flowers!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Night of The Cicada

I am happy for the arrival of today, for yesterday was a day when I was trying to follow my own advice about staying positive, breaking down a problem and letting it go when you can't do anything more.
For me, I get stressed when I am thrown into a situation at work and expected to solve it quickly.  I can work under pressure but I don't really like it.  I prefer to see the problem ahead of time and work on it in increments.
But that isn't what life is always about.  Untangling the problem takes time and sometimes I just don't have the luxury of time to figure something out.
It's BOOM and then I'm on deadline and that's it.
I did what I could to fix the problem and then because it was Friday afternoon and since others who could helped me had already left for the weekend, I had to leave the problem where it was.  Getting on the elevator to leave work and even while I was driving home, I really made a concerted effort not to bring the stress home with me.
I took deep breaths, I went down a mental check list of what else I could have done to solve the problem before I left work and there wasn't anything more.  I didn't play music on the car radio because I really wanted to calm myself.
I wanted to stop at the grocery store and buy myself a huge container of Ben & Jerry's Chocoloate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream but I didn't.  Instead, I tried to remain zen about my stress and and not let it the better of me.  I really wanted to have a really ugly cry and I was ready to let myself do it when I realized I left my cell phone out in the car. 
I went out to get it and when I came back into the house I accidentally let a cicada fly in.  OMG, OMG.  If you have never seen or heard a cicada then please take my word for it that they make a really weird awful buzzing sound when they are flying.  They are rather large, similiar to locusts, and they are just tooooo gross.
Now the thing is in my dining room, flying around inside the light fixture and trying to find it's way out.  All I could do is stand there and watch the cicada flying around in a panic.  I  couldn't touch it and if it flew out of the fixture I was going to open the front door and try to get back outside but that never happened.  It just flew around in circles until it tired itself out and through the glass of the light fixture I could see that it was laying on its back.
OMG what is a girl to do?  At least my work stress was gone but I couldn't take the cicada anymore.  I called it a night and quickly fell asleep.

Fortunately or unfortunately, so did the cicada!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Street Sense

Martin Walker

While buying tomatoes today at the FRESHFarm market near the White House, I met a homeless man named Martin, who was selling newspapers and waiting to go to a drug and alcohol treatment program in West Virginia.

I had seen Martin on previous trips to the market but didn't say more than "Hi!" or smile at him.  Today, I bought a newspaper from him and we started talking.  Martin told me that as a vendor for Street Sense newspapers he is similiar to a self-employed subcontractor.  That means that when I buy a newspaper I am investing in him and Street Sense.

I told him I had seen other people around town, especially near the Metro stops, selling Street Sense, but I didn't really know much about it.  Martin said that people usually think that he and others selling the newspapers go to a central office somewhere in DC to pick up free newspapers and then the homeless people sell them to make money.  That's not the whole picture.

Martin purchases his own newspapers upfront for 35 cents/an issue to cover publishing costs and he sells the papers for a suggested donation of $1.  This means that when a newspaper is bought for $1, that 35 cents of it repays Martin for his initial purchase.  The remaining 65 cents is Martin's profit that he uses to support himself.  The average vendor can earn about $45 a day.

I was curious about Martin's story because I know life can present changes quickly and I wondered how he had gotten to this place.  I also know it takes an inner strength to live life on the streets and to stay clean and heal yourself of drugs and alcohol. 

Martin said he is 40 years old and has a 20-year-old son.  He said he has a mother, a brother and a sister who live in the area "but they have lives of their own."  He told me he once worked in a law firm many years ago as the company's debt collector.  He was hurt in a car accident and wanted to take more time off than the company allowed, so he was laid off.  Martin said that's when his life totally unraveled and the drinking and drugs "helped me forget reality."
He has lived in shelters for years, just finished a 30-day rehab program at another facility and is now enrolled in a another program at So Others Might Eat (SOME).  The SOME program involves Martin going to West Virginia for 90 days of drug and alcohol rehabilitation and extensive support treatments.  He was supposed to leave for West Virginia this week but he had to go to the dentist today to have a tooth removed.  Martin said he is grateful to be in the SOME rehab program (which paid for his dental work) because after he completes the rehab program, SOME will also help him find transitional housing and then eventually his own apartment.
I asked him what keeps him going when times get really tough.  "I have discouraging moments," Martin said, "but I really can't imagine quitting on life itself."  
Martin quietly added: "When people consistently see a person living on the streets, don't assume that it is easy to get it back together.  Once you have lost everything it is very difficult to get back to mainstream living."
I thanked Martin for his time and wished him good luck.  I told him when I come to the market next week that I hoped I wouldn't see him here.  He said next week he hoped to be in the mountains of West Virginia following his rehab program.

On the way back to my office I thought about how I had gone to buy fresh veggies but learned about another person's journey.  Martin is remarkably resilient, constantly trying to stay clean and never giving up on himself.  I hope his life continues on its present course.

Now when I see someone in a neon vest selling Street Sense newspapers on the streets of Washington, DC, I'll know how these people are working a program and that buying a newspaper can help change a life.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Welcome To Today!

A good friend from high school who I am now friends with on Facebook (Yeah!), posted the below message on her page.  I found it to be so hopeful that I wanted to share it.

Today is a clean slate and an opportunity to start or finish or say or write something that you didn't get a chance to do yesterday.  There is always hope that things will get better.  I truly believe it!!  Hang in there if you are going through a rough patch.

Here's to today.  Grab and go with it:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

No More School Days

Me and My Son

Lately, I've been feeling as though I forgot to do something and I kept trying to pinpoint what it was.

I finally figured it out.

This is the first time in 16 years that I am not helping my son get ready for school.

I was in a big box store over the weekend and a separate section had been set up just for school supplies.  I watched the parents with their children buying notebooks (No! Not that kind!  I don't like that color!) lined and unlined paper (Are you sure this is printer paper?), binders (I want the kind with the pockets!) and an assortment of other school supply essentials (Please?! Can we please get this?  I know I'm really going to need it!).
I remember those days very fondly.  They were a mixture of excitement that another school year was beginning (where am I going to find the energy?) and sadness that summer and its freedom was coming to an end.
 I also have to admit that I will miss those trips to visit my son in college.  For me, they served as "mental health breaks," getting away and being in a different city and discovering new things
Now it is time for a new chapter and it's time to transition into a new phase of life.  I'm not sure where this will lead but I look forward to finding out.
Thank you my faithful readers for being here!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jesuit Motivation

When my son was in the midst of deciding where he wanted to go to college, Fordham University was near the top of his list.  But he was stuck between Fordham and another school and couldn't make a decision.

Trying to help him, I played the role of Devil's Advocate:  "You are getting ready to graduate from a Jesuit high school and now you are thinking of attending a Jesuit university?  Aren't you sick of the Jesuits?  Don't you want to get out of the box and spread your wings in a different atmosphere?"

My son didn't miss a beat and replied, "Mom, the Jesuits are so smart.  You have no idea how great it is to be in their classrooms.  They are always saying to us: 'Don't tell me what you think I want to hear.  Tell me what you think.'  I love that challenge and they make you really think about an issue, not regurgitate it, when you start to talk about it."

Needless to say, he choose Fordham and had another excellent educational experience of being taught by the Jesuits, only this time in the Bronx and in Manhattan.  I hold the Jesuits in a special place in my heart for their leadership in education as well as their community outreach and social justice work. 

Whether you are Catholic or not, I hope the following quote from the founder of the Jesuits will motivate you (and me) to do our best today and to think about what is happening in our world and what we can do to improve our global community or our neighborhoods and work places:


                      ~ ST. IGNATIUS LOYOLA

Monday, August 20, 2012

On Your Own Time


Slowly, I have found that the passage of time does help you gain inner strength and perspective as you try to adjust to an altered life after the loss of a loved one.  Your emotions are not as a raw as they were in the beginning of the grieving process and eventually you start to feel that you have more control over the sadness and confusion concerning your loss.

It just doesn't happen as fast as everyone else wants it to happen.

Unfortunately, our go-go society is not very tolerant of understanding how much time it really takes to learn how to recover, rebuild and then go on to live without your loved one in your life.  Each person's journey toward resilience is different because each person's circumstances and relationship to the deceased is different.

Don't give up on yourself on your future.  It is painful but you will find ways to stay connected to your loved one.  There really is no wrong way or right way.  I know of one woman who told me that she had to go back to work after her husband's death.  Her emotions were all over the place but she didn't want to "lose it" at work so before she went to work she would sit in the living room and face her husband's chair as though he was sitting there facing her.  She would then carry on a conversation with him and talk and cry with him until she felt she could go to work without having her emotions spill all over the place.

You will find your way!  I recently read the below article on the Huffington Post and found it to be very helpful.  I think Ashley Davis Bush, a psychotherapist and author, says it all right here:

Get Over It!  (And Other Things That Grievers Cannot Do)
By Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW

I have been working with grievers for over 20 years.  My grief book, Transcending Loss, was published 15 years ago and continues to help readers.  One of the reasons for its enduring appeal is that it acknowledges the lifelong impact of grief.  In it, I give grievers permission to feel their pain, find meaning in their loss and stay connected to their dearly departed.

Our pain-averse culture wants to sweep grief under the carpet as quickly as possible.  We prefer grievers to finish mourning in a timely manner so that we can all get back on schedule.  Grief, however, is ongoing.It has many twists and turns that defy our best attempts at orderliness.

If you or someone you know is grieving, the following grief resource will help you understand what to expect.

What Grievers Cannot Do

--Get Over It -- Although stoicism it is not healthy for grievers.  The truth is that a major loss is devastating -- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Grievers don't simply "get over" such a life-altering experience as one might get over an illness.  Grief is a necessary, ongoing journey that fluctuates over time.  Grief has no closure.

--Forget Their Loved One -- Grievers cannot and should not pretend as if their loved one never existed.  Most grievers think of their beloved one daily, no matter how many years have gone by.  If you, as a friend, never mention the loved one  who has died, you are acting as if you've forgotten.

--Move On -- Grievers are often tol to "move on" with life.  It is impossible to move on as if nothing has changed when the foundation of one's life has been shattered.  Severing a tie to a deceased loved one is not possible, nor should it be the goal (see "Moving Forward" in the next section).

--Be Their Old Self Again -- Grievers are irrevocably changed.  They cannot return to being their old selves again.  They are no longer the same person after a major loss.

--Stop Hurting -- Grieverss and their ones often wish for the pain of grief to stop.  The hard truth is that painful feelings of grief will arise again and again over the years.  They will continue to "burst" into life at the most inopportune moments.  Sometimes a holiday or anniversary will stimulate renewed pain and, at other times, a simple rainy Tuesday is all that it will take.

What Grievers Can Do

--Integrate Loss Into Life -- Grievers must live with loss, but they do have the choice to reengage with life.  The way to begin this lies in the understanding that loss is an inevitable part of life and that their loved on is always with them in their heart.

--Move Forward -- Grievers may not be able to simply "move on" but they can "moveforward" as a changed person with a willingness to accept the many facets of being alive.  When grievers move forward they do so with their loved one ever in their memory, their hearts and their spirits.

--Remember and Stay Connected In Love -- Grievers can make it a practice to honor their loved one and stay connected to them.  They can keep journals and letters written to their loved ones, display photographs and speak about them.  Grievers are still in a relationship with their loved one even though their physical form is no longer on this planet.

--Embrace A New Self -- Grievers can understand that being forever changed means that while the old self has died, a new self is emerging.  This new self has the potential for increased strength, wisdom, compassion, insight and perspective.

--Channel Their Pain Into New Energy -- The human spirit is remarkably resilient.  Grievers can pour their pain into new life missions, causes and callings.  They may reach out with compassion and understanding to others who suffer.  Grievers have a choice to transcend their loss by making meaning out of unspeakable pain.

Grief is a universal human experience that all of us will encounter eventually.  Understanding what we can and cannot expect will help ease the process as it unfolds.  Loss may change life as we know it, but the unknown is full of possibility.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Special Picture

Snoopy at typewriter sharing his memories

A very good friend recently came over to my house to drop off some things.  It was a Saturday and she was out running errands and my house was on her route.  We both were trying to get things done so it was your usual routine drop off and chat for a few minutes to check in and see what's going on with each other.

Hi. How are you?

Great.  What's going on?

Not much.  So and so called me.  Listen to this...

She has been in my house tons of times and everything in my house is pretty much arranged the way it always is.  No big renovations or rearrangements going on here at all.  So it surprised me -- in a really great way -- when she came into the hallway and saw probably for the millionth time the black and white picture of my husband that has been hanging in the same place for years since he died. 

Now this picture really dates him because he is sitting at his work desk in front of a manuel typewriter (what is that?) and a rotary telephone (how does that work?) that has five clear square buttons across the base so you are able to put multiple callers on hold.

I love this picture of him and for the first time I found out that she loves it too!

We stood there and talked about the picture and about my husband.  It felt good and it was really a lift for me.  I think one of the most thoughtful things you can do for anyone who has lost someone is to talk to them about that person.  Tell them how that person affected your life, tell them what that person meant to you, share an experience you had with that person even if they already know the story.  Tell it again.  They'll never grow tired of it.

We know the person we lost was special but we want to hear from other people why they also miss that person; why the deceased person left a void in their life too.

It's comforting to share memories.  Try it and see. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Good news is always worth sharing and today I have some to share with you.

In February I wrote a blogpost about four friends of mine who are in different stages of battling different types of cancer.

This week I learned that one of them went in for some follow-up tests and the results came back clean!  This is remarkable on so many levels.  This person chose an aggressive course of treatment and has also tried very hard to change the foods he eats, exercise more and even allow less stress into his life!  He is not home free but he is taking better care of himself and that's a big improvement over his past high-fat, sugery, stressed out lifestyle.

The second friend finished her chemo, radiation and reconstructive surgery and is looking and feeling great!  She is truly a "wellness warrior," (to borrow a phrase from Crazy, Sexy Cancer author Kris Carr) and just celebrated a special birthday.  This week I found out she will be walking in a breast cancer fundraiser in October and continues to eat organically, making some pretty mean blender drinks full of fresh fruits and other super vitamin mixtures that make her smoothies the best I've ever tasted!

Another friend has endured two surgeries and is now in a stage of treatment that should last for about a year.  He has a positive point of view about his diagnosis which is SO IMPORTANT and he bought the cutest treat for himself: a beautiful, warm and friendly puppy.  I cannot tell you how much happiness and  just good ole-fashioned comfort this dog brings but I'm so happy this little cutie spaniel is a part of his life.

The fourth person is continuing to pursue a healthy lifestyle but she is also handling other illnesses in her family and I hope that she does not burn herself out.  She is good at know exactly where her limits are and then just stops when she reaches them. She is a big believer in power naps and snoozes during the day to recharge herself.  So smart!

That my report from the cancer front and thank God the news is a good solid home run for now!!!!!

 I am sending blankets of love out to all of them!!!!!!

I have learned from each one of them as they have courageously faced their news and then took charge and learned as much as they could about what was happening to them.

Change is so hard and sometimes we are forced to switch things around when we don"t want to but it is so much better when we decide to become an active participant in our healing rather than standing paralyzed wondering what will happen next.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Julia Child!

Courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine

"I think every woman should have a blowtorch."

"Always start out with a larger pot than you think you need."

"I would rather eat one tablespoon of chocolate russe cake than three bowls of Jell-O."

Only one woman could have said all three of these fabulously witty things and that is Julia Child!

Child, the infamous American chef who also worked as a spy for the U.S. government during World War II, would have turned 100 today (she died in 2004) and restaurants from coast to coast are celebrating her landmark birthday by offering special parties and menus.

Child was truly an original and had a zest for life that was contagious.  I write about her today not only because of her extraordinary birthday but also because she served as an uplifting example of a woman who had tremendous resilience.  She suffered many disppointments in her personal life but she never let it get her down.  She forged on and became the author of many books and the energetic cooking teacher we know and love.

Personally, I have found that sometimes cooking can mentally take you out of yourself when you are in the midst of trying to figure out what life has handed you and in turn, the mixing, the measuring, and the spontaneous chemistry of cooking can go along way in creating harmony and healing in your beat-up soul.  Plus, you could end up with a great meal!

Speaking of great meals, last week I celebrated Julia Child's birthday a little early with three of my very good friends (VGF's).  We had the unexpected pleasure of tasting one of the special Julia Child menus offered at Ris, a delicious and charming Washington, DC restaurant owned and operated by the award-winning chef, Ris Lacoste.  We were treated to this oh-so appropriate Julia Child lunch at Ris by one of my one of my VGF's because she wanted to thank us for helping her when she accidentally fell and broke her arm and hit her head on a sidewalk (A Huge Ouch!!!!!) not too far from Ris.

It was tramatic at the time but now we are all very happy for her that she has healed as quickly as she has and is back to working and driving.  With her cast off, she proudly showed off the scars on her arm from the operation she had to have to stabilize the bone break.  It was a double celebration lunch -- friendship and Julia Child's birthday!! So perfect!!


Bon Appetit and Happy Birthday Julia!!!!!!!!!!!

Ris' menu was entitled, "All Things Julia" and here is a copy of the lunch menu:

with crème fraîche and chives
“My favorite Vichyssoise recipe.” – Chef Ris Lacoste

French Crudité Plate
leeks vinaigrette, celeriac remoulade, sherried beets
and French potato salad
A classic Julia preparation from any Paris café with market fresh local vegetables.

Moules Marinière
butter, herbs and vermouth, served with grilled bread
The French translation – “mussels sailor-style”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sole Meunière
with lemon brown butter and parsleyed potatoes
“We rolled to a stop in La Place du Vieux Marché, the square where Joan of Arc had met her fiery fate.
There the Guide Michelin directed us to Restaurant La Couronne.”

Quiche au Fromage et Choufleur
Gruyère cheese, cauliflower and caramelized onions with your choice of salad or frites

Dueling Meatloaf
with mashed potatoes, summer squash with tomatoes and mushroom gravy
Taste Julia’s and Chef Ris’ meatloaf renditions side by side!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Salty Turtle Sundae
vanilla ice cream, salted pecans
chocolate and caramel sauces
One of Julia’s favorite indulgences from Lucky’s in Montecito, CA.

Almond Vacherin
with peaches and cream
Chef Ris’ seasonal tribute to Julia’s love for meringue and poached fruit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ferris Wheels In August

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year,

like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.

The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring,

and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn,

but the first week of August is motionless, and hot.

It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons,

and sunsets smeared with too much color.

Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone.

                                                                         ~Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Monday, August 13, 2012

Election Chatter

American Flag in Ocean City, MD

Maybe you talk about politics.  Maybe you don't.

Either way, we have 86 days to go until Election Day and now that the presidential and vice presidential tickets for both parties are set, it's going to be a long, hard slog.

How to survive in Washington, DC and remain hopeful that everyday conversation can remain civil?

It is possible.  Vent while you're putting your make-up on, while you're taking a shower, while you're walking around the house.

Or don't get sucked into negative energy.  One positive and healing action I have been following over the past few weeks is boycotting the local and national morning television programs.  I look forward to watching the 7 pm evening news but I am doing my bit for energy conservation by not turning on the television in the morning.  It has become a wasteland.

If I want to find out about the weather or traffic before I leave for work, I go on the internet and look it up.  The majority of stories that air in the morning are not news stories -- the celebrity drivel is off the charts -- and half the time I'm not even sure that the reporting is accurate.  It's the same stuff over and over again because the television stations need to fill air time. 

So let them fill it.  I'm just not watching and OMG my outlook on the upcoming day is now so much calmer.

The issue of staying hopeful during these times is also addressed in September 2012's Oprah magazine and Donna Brazile, a weekly contributor and political commentator on CNN's The Situation Room, wrote the following insightful piece:

How Can I Stay Hopeful?
If the nightly news makes you want to ditch civilization and move to a desert island, you're not alone.  Here's how Donna Brazile keeps engaged.

Ten years ago, I was hired by CNN as a pundit, bloviator, spin master -- and those are just the nicer names for what I do.  It was an incredible opportunity for someone like me, who enjoys the political process -- but it came with certain risks to the soul.  News shows are often formatted like gladiator battles: The Democrat goes "head-to-head" with the Republican; we "faceoff"; one person "slams" the other.  I've been called a racist because I support affirmative action; I've been called a bad Catholic because I believe in birth control.  At the same time, I'm supposed to vilify the opposing side.

I often get depressed by this political environment.  We're inundated with stories about congressional gridlock and a deeply divided public, all the while the planet overheats, unhinged dictators in  the Middle East run amok, and the economy goes off the rails.  Like many Americans, I've sometimes doubted the functioning of our government.  Take the night the U.S. Supreme Court ended the vote count in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, or that horrifying period after Hurricane Katrina when I could not get anybody at FEMA on the phone to help me locate my missing disabled sister.

But ultimately, I don't have the luxury of tuning out.  Instead, I think of my mother, who taught me to find the good in every person and situation.  She never let us lose hope -- and she always made sure we believed Santa Claus would come, no matter how dirt-poor we were.

She's the reason I've spent my free time this summer looking for nice things to say about Mitt Romney, even though I don't plan to vote for him (for starters, he's an honorable, decent and loving father who obviously cares deeply about this country).  When I feel myself getting steamed up over an issue, it really does help to remember the rich humanity of my so-called opponents -- even one as formidable as former Bush advisor Karl Rove.  Competing against him was blood sport -- and yet he and I have great rapport.  We discovered early on that we share a love of history.  Karl doesn't just know dates and facts; he can tell you what people were eating, drinking and thinking in 1896 -- and he's always sending me books by Joseph Ellis.  He's proof that it's possible to disagree with someone on just about everything but still respect them.

Of course, I don't look for the good in others just on the campaign trail.  I see it in the policeman on the beat who's there when I am walking home late at night, and the air-traffic controllers who make sure the plane lands safely (I don't know who these people are, but I'm always praying for them).  It may not be easy to believe in government, but I can certainly believe in the postal worker who tucks my mail neatly into my box so it won't get wet when I'm traveling.

It's people, not politicians, who make this country what it is.  When I look around me, I can't help having faith.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Don't Wait -- Put It In Writing

When we miss someone, we sometimes search for something they gave us, such as a handwritten note, or something that belonged to them, such as a piece of clothing.  Seeing, touching and even smelling something they once used helps us feel closer, as though the person were with us.

Whether the person died or moved away, you are feeling sad and you need to find something that will help you work through this lonely moment and perhaps even help you feel stronger for the future.  Handwritten letters or cards are particularly valuable.  I think everyone has a letter tucked away in a drawer or in their memory that they received from someone they loved or respected.

What could be better than a note from someone who took the time to sit down and write their heart out to you?  The person's thoughts to you are frozen on the paper and to make it extra special, their thoughts are in their handwriting.

I don't think an email, while important and a common form of communication today, will ever evoke a warm and fuzzy feeling like a personal handwritten note.

The sister of a colleague of mine at work wrote the following touching story that was recently published in the Buffalo News.  As soon as I read it, I had to share it with you.  It is truly beautiful and reflects the human journey of crying, laughing and finally reaching a place of healing after a loss is experienced.

Thank you Melissa!!!!!!!

Handwritten Letter Is Timeless Memento

By Melissa Knights Bertrand
Buffalo News
July 28, 2012

From the time my kids could pick up a crayon, I have been ridiculously sentimental about everything they have ever penned, from scribbles and stick figures to beautiful poems, stories and sentiments. Consequently, I am overwhelmed and inundated with paper!

Many mommies I know have this little battle each day with the amount of paper that comes in versus the amount they are able to recycle or file away before the next day's backpacks are unzipped and explode onto the kitchen counter tops. While most are practical and discerning, ridding themselves of all but the important pieces, I have a difficult time parting with anything my kids have ever drawn or written.

For years this has plagued me. How could an organized purger like me struggle so to dispose of even the most trivial scraps of paper? It dawned on me recently that handwritten sentiments, in all their simplicity, are amazingly powerful, and my connection and unusual attachment to them is deeply rooted in a loss that will forever color my world.

For 28 years, I have missed my Dad every day. Father's Day has always been particularly empty. He died when I was in high school, cancer quietly and quickly staking its claim on his unsuspecting 38-year-old body, robbing our family and the world of an amazing light. Best known for his hilarious sense of humor and goofy antics, he was kind to all who crossed his path and truly liked by those fortunate enough to know him.

He adored his family, had sun-worn good looks and a soft spot for spaghetti and Elvis. In the numb months that followed his untimely death, most of his belongings were donated or carefully preserved and tucked away. Among the few items that remain are letters he wrote to my mom, sister, brother and me from his hospital bed in his dying days.

I cannot fathom how I would ever express all that I needed to say if I knew I were leaving my kids to go on without me. I can barely complete the thought. I suspect this act gave Dad a measure of comfort and peace, writing what was impossible to speak. As my memories of him fade, his handwritten letter to me is all that I have left of him - a man and a life personified on a piece of notebook paper.

I encourage everyone to tell the people you love how you feel about them. Put it in writing - your beautiful handwriting. Tell them all the things you might find hard to say out loud - your feelings, memories, regrets and dreams. Share how loving them has impacted your life. It doesn't have to be deeply philosophical or the least bit perfect, just you. In this era of texts, tweets, emails, blogs, Facebook and other impersonal electronic communication, your handwritten words will be a timeless memento and beautiful legacy of your life and relationships for generations to come.

This year, I pledge to make peace with all the paper and organize it in some sane fashion, perhaps even toss a little. In honor of Father's Day, I framed Dad's letter so I can read it every day and marvel at the beauty of his penmanship, as well as his feelings and wishes for my life.

What was once too painful to read now graces the top of my dresser as a daily reminder that we are only promised today. I am so grateful to have something as personal and profound as this to cherish and remember.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why Did I Come Into This Room?

       This morning I got in the car and put the key in the ignition when my mind started wandering back to the house, to the kitchen in particular, and I wondered, "Did I unplug the tea kettle?"

It is embarrassing to admit but when I am leaving the house, there are many, many times when I cannot remember whether I turned something off.  I generally have a mental list of the same things that I need to do every day so why does this happen?

I really try to prevent going through the house over and over to recheck myself, but still the "forgetting" happens.

My friends and I make jokes about our so-called short attention span in the house.  It sounds ridiculous but I can start doing something in one room and then find something that takes me to another room and I suddenly remember I need to start the laundry which takes me to another room.  On top of that, I can't tell you how many times I find myself in a room and I think to myself (or even say out loud): "Why did I come into this room?"  It's so inefficient!

 Once I was driving to Mass and we were late.  I was a couple of blocks from church when I realized I had left the dryer running!  Of course, I had to drive back and turn it off, but what really made it bad was the silence from my husband and son. Not. One. Word.  To me, that's worse than listening to the complaining about my mistake.

 For those of you who find yourselves in a new life situation because of a death or a divorce, you may be in throes of trying to find interesting and efficient ways of dealing with closing up the house by yourself on a daily basis. 

Just as we share our thoughts and emotions concerning bereavement, we may also be able to help each other adjust to being solely responsible for the house, the car, the shopping and other things by sharing tried and true “survival tips.”

              A friend of mine has started us off in the right direction by thinking of the wonderful idea of the following two “survival tips” – things that helped her when she was newly bereaved:  

1.      Make a list of things that need to be done before leaving the house and check them off as you get close to the front door:

-- Did I lock the doors?

-- Are all appliances turned off?

-- Did I turn on or off the lights?

-- Do I have my keys?

-- Glasses?

-- Wallet?

-- Medications?

2.      As you finish taking a pill, turn the bottle or pill container upside down after taking the medication to signal to yourself that you’ve taken the medication for the day.

I would love to hear from others who also have tried and true "survivor tips" that work for them.  

Please share!  We're all in this together.  Many thanks!! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summertime Sayings

Courtesy of Katie's Pencil Box

Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes,

and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.

A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief

that all's right with the world.

                                                      ~ Ada Louise Huxtable

Monday, August 6, 2012

Worrying vs Caring

In our post 9/11 world, I think a lot of us operate as though the other shoe is going to drop any minute.  When I find myself in that mode, I try to put the brakes on the fear, the anxiety or whatever you want to call it  because walking around worrying doesn't accomplish anything.  Unfortunately, this can become a regular way of dealing with things, which can be harmful to yourself.

You can't worry about a situation because you can't control it.  But you do have power over yourself and you can try to control your responses to life's more stressful events.  You are re-teaching yourself how to respond to various people in your daily life and it takes some practice.  The first itme I tried reacting differently to a situation I considered dysfunctional, I was truly surprised.  I did feel calmer because I wasn't investing negative energy into it.

With that in mind, I saw this story in yesterday's Huffington Post and thought it was timely:

1. Adding Fuel to the Fire:

When we worry about someone or something, we direct our energy toward the situation. We are, in fact, putting fear and doubt into an already shaky state of affairs. For instance, maybe you recently found out that a close friend hasn't been feeling well... something about a pain in her stomach. So what's the first thing you do? Probably start contemplating the myriad of medical conditions she could have (not that you're a doctor). Then, you call a mutual friend and discuss the issue with her -- "Cancer? Appendix? Kidneys?" (Not that she's a doctor, either.) So then that person goes to the beauty salon and discusses it some more, and those individuals commiserate and worry along with her. How many people is that now adding their energies into the mix? It's okay to talk about what's going on around you, but try to at least put a positive spin on it, like, "Carol told me she's been having some pain, but I'm sure she'll go see her doctor, and it'll all work out just fine. I hope she feels better."

Hear the difference? One approach is called spreading gossip, which is harmful, and the other shows she genuinely cares about another person's well-being.

Let's look at the news for a moment. Nowadays, we have 24-hour access to everything that's happening in the world. Most of which we can't do anything about. Now, I agree that it's important to be on top of issues in the news, especially when it pertains directly to our own lives, but you have to be able to cope with the barrage of information that you're inviting into your home. I'm sure there are a number of people out there who have become depressed, fearful and angry from getting an overdose of watching the news day in and day out.

Sometimes we can focus too much on the "doom and gloom." There are positive, uplifting news stories, also, and we need to start giving more of our attention to those. When our emotions collectively tilt to the negative, as worry, doubt, and fear set in, at what point are we possibly pulling more of the same challenges in for ourselves? When more and more people come into agreement about a particular idea, that collective consciousness can become so strong that it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If what we focus our energy on expands and continues to get stronger, then let's try focusing on something good.

2. Hanging on Like a Dog With a Bone:

Sometimes when we're really worried, we hold on to a problem so tightly that we block any kind of resolution from coming in. We end up throwing so much nervous anxiety at an issue that it winds up taking forever to get fixed. I'm not saying we should all sit around and do nothing when a challenge arises, but I am suggesting that once you take action to get it fixed, don't keep checking on it and asking, "Is it fixed yet? Is it fixed yet? Is it fixed yet?" You have to let go and release it once you set the solution in motion.

If you don't want something to perpetuate and persist, don't give it any energy! If you do, then by all means, keep checking. Otherwise, get out of your own way. Go work on something else for a while, and stop thinking about it. Because as soon as you do, the answer to your dilemma will show up, your problem will suddenly be fixed, or "that person" will finally call you back.

3. Internalizing Negative Energy:

Did you know that worriers can internalize so many harmful thoughts and feelings that they, in turn, can make themselves ill? When you keep pushing negative energy down into your physical body, that energy can manifest itself and materialize as dis-ease. Worry, fear, anxiety, anger, resentment, stress are all toxic to the human body. These emotions will damage your cells. They will literally eat away at you if you let them. Being a worrier is a very unhealthy position to put yourself in.

So, do yourself and others a huge favor and quit worrying! Instead, just care. Care about a situation being resolved, care about another person's well-being, and care about yourself. You'll feel so much better, and you'll make others feel a lot better, too. Start today by shutting the door on the things you're afraid of and opening a new door in anticipation of better things to come.

Farmers Are The Best!

Elmer's Fresh Veggies

My vacation sadly has ended and as I drive home I'm thinking about all the fun and relaxing  things that I had a chance to do: eating delicious steamed crabs at Mickey's, swimming in the ocean, sleeping in, finishing a powerful book titled Mary's Mosaics, shopping at the outlets and hanging out with great friends.

But the drive home also has a time-honored ritual that I look forward to:  stopping at a farmer's stand to buy fresh, fresh, fresh vegetables and fruit.

When I was a child, my parents would always stop at Addams market which is the first market you see when you cross over the Delaware state line.  For years, Addams was the agreed road stop until I got married.  My husband didn't want to go to Addams, he preferred Elmer's.  These are not the only two markets on the drive to the beach.  There are scores of other stands, one of which is called Ma and Pa's.

Anywho, the first year my husband and I traveled to the beach, he did compromise (surprise!)and we stopped at Addams but he really didn't like it so the next year I said it would be okay if we stopped at Elmer's and now it has been Elmer's ever since.

I must say Elmer's has the sweetest cantalopes I've ever eaten and their corn on the cob and tomatoes are also very good!  They also sell plants and homemade breads and jams.  This year I am taking advantage of the wonderful Eastern Shore crops that have been harvested and waiting for people to grab them, cook and eat!  I think there is something about the soil on the Eastern Shore that adds a special zing to the produce grown there.

I wish I had a garden so that I could eat my own home grown fruits and veggies but my gardening efforts never succeed so I have stopped trying.  I can grow herbs in a pot which I do -- rosemary and mint -- but I can't grow a tomato if my life depended on it.  My tomato plants grow tall but then they never bloom.  It's very sad but that's why I think farmers are the best!!

Speaking of gardens, here is a YouTube video about the White House garden which I would love to visit if it were open to the public:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Life Can Be A Beach

Today I choose to be positive and constructive. 

What does that mean?

It means I am going to adopt and hang on to a beach mentality for as long as I can.  Every day at the beach I pack up my things and go and find a treasured spot on the beach.  Sometimes my friends are there first and sometimes I get there first.  But we stake out our spot in the warm and welcoming sand and the day evolves.  We talk about nothing in particular, we read for awhile, we test out the ocean and it's daily currents and temperatures and then we decide it's time to eat.

The whole wonderful routine rolls along all on its own.

Then we leave the beach for the night and the ocean does what it does best and cleans it up for the next day.

Life is going to happen and I can be hopeful or I can stir up stress within myself because I don't know what's going to happen or what has already happened is something I didn't want.  I can confront the daily waves of life head on (OUCH!) or I can learn to navigate and ride them safely to shore so that I can then play in the sand and maybe gain a new perspective.

Each day, every one of us has the opportunity and the power to follow a hopeful path or give in to the stress and drama around us.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Life Is Better At The Beach

I listen to the ocean waves as they continuously break on the shore and happily feel the sun's warm rays melt the tangle of stress webs in my brain and body and I know for sure that the beach is a magical place!!! 

The sign pictured below is not a cliche.  It's the absolute salty and sandy truth!