Category Archives: Reading

Are You My Other Mother?

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Right up there with Dr. Seuss is the author of “beginning to read”  books, P.D. Eastman.  Although not nearly as prolific as Seuss, Eastman’s books Are You My Mother? and Go, Dog, Go! are easy to read classics on par with The Cat in the Hat and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  

Eastman’s story about a baby bird hatching while his mother is gone from the nest foraging for food, and his subsequent quest to find her, leave an indelible and anxious mark on many a four and five year old.   The baby bird did not know what his mother looked like so he inquired of a kitten, hen, dog, cow, car, boat, jet, and SNORT, asking plaintively, “Are you my mother?”

I  am fortunate that I did not have to ask this question as a child.  However, both of my maternal grandparents lost their mothers in adolescence and my father-in-law, The Headmaster, lost both parents at a very tender age.  This is why, although the waves of grief billow over me threatening to capsize my equilibrium, I try to have only the occasional pity party.  I was blessed with knowing my mother Sally and liking her, to boot.

But even my mother threw me and my sisters out of the house.

“GO OUTSIDE!”  she yelled with alarming frequency.  Sometimes she’d even lock the doors so we couldn’t come in and bug her.  Reading a book in my room was not an option. She needed the nest CLEARED.

When this happened, I would ramble in the neighborhood, visiting my “other mothers”.  Estelle McDowell, a married, childfree woman who looked liked Mrs. Claus, read me her childhood books, books written in the late 1890s and early 1900s by Josephine Scribner Gates.  She entertained me with stories of the pet monkey she once owned.  Even if I couldn’t come inside to visit, she would hand me a piece of Almond Roca candy and kindly tell me to skedaddle.

Then there was my “Nana”, Lois Watson, to whom I was not related but who was present when my mother brought me home from the hospital, who knit my Christmas stocking, and taught me to bake.

Finally, there was Thelma Willard, who taught my mother to garden, kept a basket of polished beach agates on the hearth, and whose husband’s garage was filled with hundreds of clocks with which he’d tinker.

All of these women’s houses were their own special kind of Wonderland and the people who inhabited them were lavish lovers of children.

The absence of my mother Sally has obviously created a tremendous void.  There is no upside in this.  But is there, perhaps, more space for others to tuck themselves in?  Skipping around my Florida neighborhood, I ask myself, “Are you my mother?”

There is Winnie, my mother-in-law, who has given me space and healing hugs.  There is Carol, my next door neighbor, who gives me gardening and household tips, a friendly wave across the driveways. There is Sandy, who invited me to the Daytona Beach Symphony Fashion Show.  There are the women of Sally’s bible study at Trinity Episcopal Church who welcomed me into their circle when I was forlorn.  I gravitate to their experience, wisdom, and open hearts.

The baby bird at the end of the book Are You My Mother? cries out, “Where am I?  I want to go home.  I want my mother.”

Baby Bird gets his wish.   And in my own way,  I am too.

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Self Portrait of an Artist #2

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Tonight I am fixing “easy grilled chicken” from Naomi Duguid‘s beautiful book Burma.  This is NOT The Atonement Dinner. My last post before my mother died was about her being a Food Diva.  Regret.   I am not sure I can face The Atonement Dinner just yet.

This meal is a repeat, however, of the last meal I remember Sally fixing for me.  I even made the tangy red chili dipping sauce (of course she had dried ancho chiles in the cupboard).  I can only hope it is half as delicious.

Happy Friday.

 

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Filed under Family, Fine Dining, Life, Reading, Sightseeing, Travel

Red Beard

 

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I distinctly remember my parents coming home from their Hawaiian adventure.  I was in the swimming pool at the country club.  My parents rounded the corner of the club by the golf pro shop.  I literally could not believe my eyes.  My mother was 20 shades darker and my dad had a full beard, most of which was red.  They were my parents but they were fundamentally altered.  I was OVERJOYED.

When I had a red headed baby I recalled my father’s red beard.

For Christmas, I gave my mother an Ancestry.com DNA test.  Mr. Understanding gave me one too.  I set up my mother’s account but she did not get around to spitting into the tube. This I regret, not making sure she did the test.  I’d already given my father one (file under: What to Get A Man for a Gift).

When comparing my DNA to my father’s (yes, he is mine!)  it turns out that, genetically,  4% of my DNA comes from the Iberian Peninsula.  This I did not get from Big Mike.  From the map, it appears that I am Basque-ish on my mother’s side.  Celtic invaders from long ago???  This might explain my affinity for Galicia,  pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, and love of the Portuguese and Spanish languages.  It does not explain my distaste for fish – it must be a mutant gene.   All of my DNA comes from seafaring countries.  It also explains my mother’s dark dark dark skin due to prolonged UVA exposure.  I am anxious for my sisters to do the test – maybe MoodRingMomma is even more Iberian than I?

And to think that Spain was the country I liked living in the least …

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, Life, Reading, Religion, Spanish vocabulary, Travel

Possible Heart Nutrients

lord-stood-by-meThis is from Sally’s 2016 archives.   What are you doing for your heart?

This is what I am doing for mine:

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OK, I am not actively reading cook books.  Yet.  But my father is.  He had to go buy Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, ironically the one book that my mother didn’t currently own because she knew how to cook everything.  She gave it to everyone in the family – I have gone through several copies because the binding is terrible.   Dad’s  Mardi Gras waffles were stupendous.

Suggested reading:  Grit by Angela Duckworth.  Am only a chapter in but it is fascinating.  More on this topic later, but needless to say, SALLY HAD GRIT.

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Here, a recipe from Food52.com for grits.  You can add shrimp.  Or not.  You know what I would do, even though it is a Lenten Friday.  XOXO

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Persian Aversion: An Ode to Martha

 

One of the oddities not mentioned in the After Your Heart Surgery brochure that a hospital gives a patient and their family before going home is that the patient will become a Food Diva.  If they were a Food Diva before the surgery, this aspect of their personality will become heightened, exacerbated, enlarged, inflated.  Once the pain is over and the patient returns home, small portions of any food not resembling hospital food will be requested.  This is natural.  But “requested”, perhaps, is too gentle a word.  Strongly suggested?   The very thing the caregiver is suggested to make, however, will offend the patient’s also heightened olfactory senses.  Chex Mix (TM) can send a patient into paroxysms of disgust.  Crockpot pork shoulder, lovingly rubbed with chili, garlic, salt, and cumin, can send a patient over the edge.  Who knew?

If one is not a natural born cook yet finds them self in a primary caregiver role to a Food Diva, this is a bitter pill to swallow.   Where does it say I have to be Alice Waters, Julia Childs, or Ashley Rodriguez?  To the patient whose primary love language is Acts of Service – The Provisioning of Healthy Meals to Your Family – to find oneself in the clutches of a merely serviceable cook of a caregiver is to find oneself gazing about the ramparts of the pits of hell.  Some snarky, possibly overtly aggressive, comments about pizza and the frequency with which it is consumed, just might be uttered by the patient: “You just keep eating your pizza.”  Food shaming at its best!

MoodRingMomma and I were at our collective caregiving wits’ end the other night.  I suggested to our mother that we could eat either a) crock potted chicken thighs in green salsa from her own website cooksallycook.com or b) Stromboli from the Italian restaurant a stone’s throw away.  MoodRingMomma added that she was willing to cook c) chicken curry.  A veritable smorgasbord of options, with a green salad on the side!

But no, The Radish wanted effing ground lamb kebabs on flatbread with roasted tomatoes from Naomi Duguid‘s cookbook Persia.  No matter that we did not have the skewers the recipe required, a grill, or ground lamb.  Hamburger would do, mixed in with the grated onion, mashed into pasty little sliders by my very own dish pan hands, and cooked on the pancake griddle.

I later commented that really, this very labor intensive  dish, was a Persian version of a poor Greek’s gyro, one we could probably get as take out.   I felt it needed some tzatziki but all agreed that the sumac spice was essential (this, of course, we had on hand).  Nonetheless, the Radish was pleased with the outcome and the smell did not offend.  She enjoyed watching MoodRingMomma cry over grating the onions and me mashing the meat paste into “kebabs”.   There was no sitting at the feet of Jesus for these sisters.

It was shortly after this that I had a hissy fit on the phone with my other sister MCVwasHere, during which I explained that everyday with a heart surgery patient is like being on a roller coaster.  Up one hour, down the next, with loop de loops, hanging upside down for extended periods.  This is no reflection on the heart surgery patient.  It is the nature of the beast. But no doctor tells you this beforehand, of course.  A heart surgeon touches your body exactly twice: once to cut on you for 4-5 hours and then again to remove the staples, and maybe then he or she  might even make a different healthcare worker do that nasty bit of business.

My ten year old nephew, overhearing the conversation, piped up and said,

“Wait!  You’re on a roller coaster????”

Like we were whooping it up on vacation at DisneyWorld.  It still makes me laugh hard.

Sometimes life demands that a Martha show up instead of a Mary.  Marthas get sh*t done.  Martha would not have hesitated to wipe up the blood and crust from the wounds of Jesus but she might have been resentful that she had to unload the dishwasher and milk the yak too. I am not so sure that That Other Mary would have been up to the task, something I will inquire about in my personal one-on-one conversation on the other side.  For today, Sweet Jesus, let me make it to Christmas.  At least there have been no poopy diapers.

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Shopping Suggestions:  you are cutting it close, shoppers.  I think you can still order Naomi Duguid’s books Persia or Burma, which are part travelogue, part stellar photography, and part recipes.  Even if you never cook from them, they are beautiful books.  Alternatively, order some baklava from Shatila.com.  I like to think Martha served both Jesus and her sister a piece.  YUM!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Proud Mary Redux

God always likes to give me a little bit of rope with which to hang myself.   This morning this daily devotional from Biblegateway.com, an excerpt from C.S. LewisMere Christianity, arrived in my inbox.  Read here.  I just hope pride doesn’t go before the fall this time …  OUCH!

Lord, forgive me!

Herewith concludes Day 30.

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Happy Birthday, Mr. President

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Today we commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  It is well known that he loved his mother Nancy and that she was central to his world view, both before and after her death at the young age of 34.  Nancy famously taught Abe to read (the Bible) by lantern.  He was a voracious reader.  Abe’s little sister’s name was Sarah.  Obviously, Nancy had a thing for biblical names too.  Interestingly, Lincoln’s paternal grandmother was named Bathsheba.  Bathsheba was the woman with whom King David committed adultery.  She was also the mother of King Solomon, from whom we get some of the pithier parts of the Bible. 

Here is one of my favorite Proverbs (21:19) of Solomon’s:  “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and fretful wife.”  You can take that one to the bank.  Doesn’t that make you laugh?  Poor Mr. Understanding.  

President Lincoln, married to Mary Todd Lincoln, probably longed to live in a desert while married.  Never one to withhold her opinion, Mrs. Lincoln was a bossy pants.    Overcome with grief by the loss of almost all of her children and her husband, she moved to France towards the end of her life, primarily to escape her eldest son Robert who previously had her committed to an insane asylum due to depression.  This is what happened to women who suffered from depression back in the day.  (Thank you, Jesus, for advancements made in the treatment of depression and anxiety).   In France, Mary participated in seances so she could commune with her lost sons and husband.  I like to think she made it to Lourdes and experienced some healing.  

After visiting the Mary Todd Lincoln house in Lexington, KY  last spring I gained tremendous insight into her tragic life, her profound intelligence, and her capacity for love, both of country and family.   

This Mary has been much maligned. 

But today we celebrate her fabulous husband, to whom we owe these United fifty States. Where would we be if he hadn’t been born?

“The struggle of today, is not altogether for today — it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence, all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.”
–Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861

Herewith concludes Day 3.

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