You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘family’ tag.

My coffee and I sit at our round table with our unconventional breakfast, looking through cookbooks to plan our week’s meals. My own handwritten notes are familiar even though they were written 20 years ago. Books being sacred objects, I was aghast the first time ex-Pat made notes in a cookbook. Over the years, he convinced me to do so, but only in pencil, and as minimally as possible, to convey the changes I’d made.

Those notes from 20 years ago….they transport me back to the Cozy House, to my slope-floored kitchen with its knotty pine cabinets. To the Mother-in-Law’s tongue that my co-worker Sandy gave me decades ago, thriving in a pot in the corner. The dogs’ and cats’ food and water dishes slightly underfoot on the lavender linoleum. The Asian blue patterned containers holding the cooking utensils on the counter next to the little one cup coffee maker. The bottom drawer where the casserole dishes lived, the one that always went cattywampus when I tried to close it. My beloved Norge stove.

We never ate dinner at the kitchen table, only breakfast on weekdays, just as it had been at my parents’ house growing up. I tried to get us to do so once and only once. It was disastrous and all three of us wound be miserable.

Doing dishes, by hand as we never had a dishwasher, standing at the sink looking out into the backyard from the white-framed casement the window. My view was beneath the arch of a tree that was slowly growing its way into the house, bending the gutter a little more each year. Ex-Pat and I talked about one day remodeling the kitchen, making it bigger, though it was a good size already. We would have built out the kitchen around the tree, leaving it free to grow as tall and as strong as it wanted.

That view from the window had grown over the decades from a dirt yard with giant wooden spools as tables in various places, to a bower of beauty, with the greenhouse that ex-Pat had built by hand as its centerpiece. Beautifully cold in winter but always warm with memory of summer. Sparkling with promise in spring. Glowing with trailing golden cottonwood leaves in fall. And raging and singing in its glory on the warmest days and nights of summer,

It all lives only in my memory now, as I sit at a different table in a different life, the wind swishing the pine boughs outside the door, the blue sky shy beneath sheer white clouds, the Stellar’s Jay keeping silent company, my coffee now grown cold.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • That I’m alive
  • Cats
  • Music
  • Driving
  • Sweatshirts

If you haven’t been around the blog for long, you might not know that my relationship with cooking is what one might called complicated. Perhaps I’ll explore that history in the future, but for now, I’ve decided to share with you some of the things that I can cook that actually turn out well. And so, Feed Me Friday is born.

Today’s recipe is Crescent Moon Gumbo, adapted from a New Orleans recipe. I’ve made a lot of gumbos in my day, because it’s hard for me to screw up soup. This one is a keeper though. Contrary to its name, you do not have to make it at said phase of the moon (though I could said you did if I wanted to be all witchy). Some may argue that this is not actual gumbo because the recipe does not call for file powder. But I don’t like file powder, so it’s not in there. The roux and okra serve as fine thickeners.

Before we get to the heart of the gumbo, here are a few things to know about making this:

  • Have everything prepped, chopped, measured, and at hand before you start. I mean everything. I’ve learned this the hard way.
  • Spice amounts are always approximate. I seldom measure spices unless I’m futilely trying to bake something, and even then it’s anybody’s guess if I’m going to measure or eyeball it. My dad was a wonderful baker and he always doubled any spice he was using because he said most recipes were written for American palates which preferred their food bland (think pilgrims and puritans).
  • If you don’t have something, feel free to substitute. That’s the thing about gumbo — it’s very forgiving. For example, right now, there is literally not a shrimp to be had within 30 miles, so I substituted bay scallops.

Enough preamble. Here you go.

Crescent Moon Gumbo

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 lb. chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (I just used diced roast chicken today, but raw chicken breast is fine too)
  • 1 lb. turkey kielbasa, cut into thin quarters (I used a 13oz. turkey smoked sausage today, because it’s what I had)
  • 2 c. chopped yellow onion
  • 1 c. chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 1+ tbsp. minced garlic (I use the stuff in the jar instead of fresh, but you do you)
  • 1.5 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 5 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • 16 oz. cut okra (I use frozen)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. cooked shrimp, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 tsp. olive oil, diced chicken, and kielbasa and sauté until browned. Remove from pan. Sauté onion, bell pepper, and celery in dripping for 4 minutes. If it seems too dry, add a little chicken broth to the pan. Add garlic and all spices to the pan and sauté until the onion is tender. Remove from pan. Add remaining oil to the pan and lower the heat. Add flour, whisking constantly, until you’ve made a light brown roux. Gradually add broth, whisking constantly, until there are no lumps. Add the chicken, kielbasa, and onion mixture back to the pan, along with the okra, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes. Add shrimp and parsley and heat through. Makes 6-8 servings. Can be served over rice. Enjoy!

Because I don’t take good food pictures, here’s a cat picture.

And his name is Pharaoh. Maybe I should say there’s a new cat god in town. This is our late son’s Maine Coon, who’s been living with MKL. Yesterday, we shifted him up to the Retreat. He’s settling in well. He’s very attached to MKL though, so as much as he likes me, I’m a little nervous about how we’ll do when MKL goes back to civilization tomorrow. He’s super smart, can open most closed doors, and lives up to his breed’s reputation as “the dog of cats”. But it sure was nice to have him snuggle in my lap for a couple of hours. It’s been too long.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • A lovely day
  • Successfully cooking dinner
  • Cats
  • Coach K’s 100th tournament win

I’ve driven hundreds and hundreds of miles already this year. My drives have been from The Retreat to MKL or to the ruins of the cozy house. Of course, it’s wonderful to have time with MKL, but most of my trips north have involved my sifting or just sitting in the ashes or managing some detail of recovery. In other words, these drives have been taken with a heavy heart.

Yesterday, though, my drive was different. Instead of turning north, I turned south on the highway and headed for New Mexico to meet up with K for one night in a town about midway between us. As soon as I hit the unfamiliar blacktop of I-25 South, I felt free. The sky opened up to a vast blue and I felt tearfully excited that I was going to see my girl.

It was a lovely, easy drive, with Truck most eager to hit illegal speeds. It was warm and sunny and I had Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers as musical accompaniment. I blew kisses to the many herds and singleton antelope I saw along the way, they being my comfort and shamanic power animal, so often appearing in my travels.

While I’m not choosy, particularly when it comes to New Mexico skies, I prefer a few clouds to add some extra drama, but the clarity of the day, with a three-quarter moon resting in the crook between the mesas, made for a liberating trip. I love how, heading south from the Retreat, the Spanish Peaks appear suddenly before me, welcoming and enticing. Across the border, after Raton Pass, a New Mexico snow-capped mountain range peeks out from the west horizon, dipping behind the brown hills and reappearing unexpectedly in a slightly different place a few miles down the road.

Once, years ago, when K was in high school, she was having a rough patch and she said, “I just want to get out of this state.” And I said okay. So we got in the truck and drove to Wyoming, thrift shopping, exploring, and stopping at the hoodoos at sunset to clamber around. That change of scene, that change of state, was just what she needed. A day with her in another state was just what I needed right now. I’ll share pictures in the coming days.

In the cozy house was a little wooden two drawer filing cabinet. In this little two drawer filing cabinet were words. So many words.

I had files of letters from my Mother and Father. They’ve been dead for 16 and 17 years, respectively. It was tough losing them within 21 months of each other. The loss from the fire is the only loss that’s been anywhere near similar to my heart. And I suppose the loss of my pets before Roscoe and Dusty.

My Father in particular was a prolific writer. He sent me newspaper clippings about my hometown or other stories he thought I’d be interested in, along with a little one or two page note, usually on his Duke University notepaper. I kept them all. And now they’re gone.

K has a letter that her grandfather sent to her. I think that may be the only letter left. I don’t know how or why I took that one with me when I left, but I’m glad I did. I have some old files in my basement that may have copies of letters he’d written to others, but none to me. My heart tears just a little as I write that, one more tear that will need to heal over time.

My Mother did not write letters to me often, but those she did are gone. However, she, like me, kept journals. I took all of them that I could find with me. That’s a blessing. I have a lot of her words, her history, her thoughts, even documentation of some of our nightly phone calls. I haven’t been able to see what years are missing yet. I don’t want to know, because knowing won’t change anything and it will just magnify what’s lost instead of what’s left. I don’t need that right now.

I hadn’t thought about the letters and my parents’ handwriting until today, when, while leafing through a cookbook that I took with me when I left the cozy house, I found one of my Mother’s recipes. She always used little yellow lined notepads. Then I remembered. Another memory of what’s been lost.

Dear Susanna,

Ah, my sister-from-another-mister. I got to spend less than five minutes with you today, and your very presence is like a balm to my spirit. You make me feel maternal and cared for at the same time. It seems we can each move the other to tears with a breath of empathy, one we seem to share only with one another, no matter how many other people we talk to. Thank you for entering my life four years ago, for our inexplicable and uncanny personal parallels, and for understanding me without words. I hope next time that we can find more than five minutes.

“There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family.” — Unknown

#yearoflove

Today’s love note goes out to my daughter.

Dear One,
There are too many things to thank you for…it would take a lifetime…but I’ll just stick with today. Thank you for coming to my rescue in the dreaded mouse affair, and for switching roles with me, comforting me after my bad dream. I did feel a little bit bad for the mouse, but thinking about Mr. Man using it as a plaything in the bed in the wee small hours drastically reduced my sympathy. I love the empathy that shines through your soul, and I will try to tough out any future rodent encounters, thinking of your strength. I expect there will be more, as Mr. Man seems excessively proud of his mouser skills, and the winter is bound to get colder. All my love.

Today’s quote: “Any cat may stare into a fire and see red mice play.” — George R.R. Martin

img_20180126_185255

#yearoflove

You are sitting there, quietly, when suddenly, you know. Death is at your shoulder. Again. All of his other visits swirl through your memory. Why is he a he? I have always thought of death as a male, and birth as female. The female part, I understand. But the male part is a mystery. He has yet to make a claim, but he is there, waiting. Animal or human, death is the same. In the long run, the hurt is the same. The loss is the same. A sensitive soul like me, or a pragmatic soul, like my ex, still feels the ache. The new/old soul like our daughter feels it all the more, because she is far away, and may not get a chance to say goodbye.

Champ’s age is debatable, but that he was adopted as Kelsea’s dog is indisputable. That he is preparing to depart is also without question. I sat for hours on the floor of the vet’s office with him laying between and against my legs, snoring gently and chasing things in his dreams. I know he will be free of the burden of his body over the Bridge, and that he will be waiting there for us. I have shared similar sentiments with three friends who have lost fur family in the last few weeks. It’s no comfort. There is no comfort. I so wish there was.

The feeling of grief before a death is, some might say, premature. But I know it to be very real , and inescapable. Once Death is in the room, there is nothing I can do but sit beside him, in uncomfortable silence, and wait.

20170608_125255
Boulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Dogs are always good and full of selfless love. They are undiluted vessels of joy who never, ever deserve anything bad that happens to them.” — Steven Rowley

Daily gratitudes:
A good vet
Clouds
Getting along with your ex
Video calls
The mixed blessing of feelings

 

Mugs
Some days I want to drink my coffee
From a mug that reminds me of my mother.
It’s one on permanent loan from
The work kitchen of a now-defunct employer.

It’s gentle curves are like a mug my mother gave me,
A fine sheen, ivory and green, embossed with seashell art.
I lost that in the divorce, along with many things,
And drawers and cabinets full of pain and dead dreams.

My mother doesn’t know anything about that.
She died before it happened.
I often wonder
What she would think of me,
My life,
My choices,
Now.

But this curved mug
Is brown and green and embossed with trees
Like the ones my mother loved so much.

One of my favorite images is of her
Hugging a pine tree
In Rocky Mountain National Park.

So when I fill
The mug that reminds me of my mother,
With Folger’s crystals like my father used to drink,
It is as if I am having a small cup of coffee with my parents
Each morning.

That is a very fine way to start the day.

20160329_091003
Denver, Colorado. (This is my alternative mug, purchased for
me by MKL. I love it.)

Quote of the day: “I am the way a life unfolds and bloom and seasons come and go and I am the way the spring always finds a way to turn even the coldest winter into a field of green and flowers and new life.” – Charlotte Eriksson

Daily gratitudes:
The flat fall of Snowmaggdon
Favorite movies on a snow day
A super snuggly cat
Experimental eggs
Having a warm spot on a cold day

 

December 12, 2006:

My uncle and my brother both marked the time, the exact time – somewhere around 3:43 am.

We sat for a while with her, there in the darkness, holding her hands, holding her heart.  I could still feel her.  Still feel her.  Someone turned on the lights, blew out the candle, started doing the practical things.  Calling the mortuary people, calling my “Aunt” who had been my Mother’s oldest friend – the one who had  aided in my parent’s elopement, had driven her to the hospital to give birth to me, who now lived just upstairs.

It felt wrong to have all this stuff going on.  I stayed in the room with her, pulling up her covers so she might not get cold, trying to fully close her eyes.  They wouldn’t stay closed.  I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and saw her looking back at me through my eyes.  I saw her eyes in the mirror, in my face.  I called my husband and told him, had him tell Kelsea.  She wrote the date and time down on a napkin and put it in a special scrapbook that she has.

My aunt came.  She put her arm around me, and I said, “I don’t want her to go.”  And she said to me, “She’s already gone.”  I did not know what I was going to do.  I loved her so.  We were such a part of each other.  I just did not know what to do.  As the minutes passed , her body looked less and less…occupied.  I could feel it, feel her soul moving away, as the minutes passed, drifting away, flying away, floating away, soaring away, farther and farther away, without even turning to say good-bye, just excited to be free and exploring.  Leaving me behind.

Things happened then.  My brother put ice around the back of her head to keep her brain cool for the Brain Autopsy Study she was a part of.   I knew it was still nighttime, the middle of the night, but time had become irrelevant.  I just remember again the light, the brightness of incandescent bulbs all over.  The night nurse had slipped out.  She had been hiding in the other bathroom for hours.  She never even came in the room.  She was afraid of dead people.  Everything just felt so surreal.

The funeral home men came, two of them, with a stretcher and a big plastic bag.  Somehow, though she wasn’t a big woman, they just couldn’t seem to manage her.  I don’t know why.  But I wound up helping to put my Mother’s body in that bag.  Wrapped in one of my sheets, one of my favorite sheets, that looked like a sandy beach with seashells on it, that we had put on her bed particularly because she loved those sheets too.  I could never have that sheet back.  That action was the worst part of this whole memory.  I should never have done that.

Then everyone left.  It was morning.  I called my best friend at work.  I started making calls to the people who needed to know.  It was horrible.   I heard her dear friend, whose wife I spoke to, explode with grief – “Oh, GOD!”, he said.  I let her go to him.  I lay down to try to sleep and I just cried.  Cried and cried and cried as if my heart would break.  But it was too late, it was already broken.

I thought about the morphine in the refrigerator.  I could do it.  Could do it so easily.  Just take the rest of it and follow her.  I wasn’t thinking about Kelsea.  I wasn’t thinking.  I was so consumed with pain, I didn’t feel like I could live.  I didn’t want to live.  I was tired and tormented.  I was mad with grief and exhaustion.  I wept myself to sleep.

Later, I told E-Bro about it, and he said he would kick my corpse if I did such a thing.  We started to pack up her things.  We went out to dinner.  We didn’t feel normal.  We were orphans now.  At least we had each other.

Now, four years later, I have come to have some peace with her death, but it has taken almost this entire span of time.  But it has happened.  I still miss her.  I know she’s still with me in her own way.

And I know, with all certainty, that she is having a marvelous time.

June 2022
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Archives

Make your life a little sweeter every day! Sign up for an email subscription to Seasweetie.

Join 2,466 other followers

wordpress stats
plugin
%d bloggers like this: