Category Archives: Home Sweet Home

Culinary Nirvana

Culinary Nirvana

“I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and say to myself “well, that’s not going to happen” ― Rita Rudner

It started as far back as junior high school. My brother and I baked a cake for Mom for mother’s day; we chose angel food because it looked easy. When it began to rise we were horrified, would it run over the pan getting gooey cake all over Mom’s oven? We would surely incur her wrath for that, so we took a fork and pushed the cake back down into the pan-hard. For those of you who have never done this, I can tell you that it produces a white rubbery disc that doubles as an bowling ball. We all knew the sad truth then, I would never be admitted into Le Cordon Bleu.

Besides, kitchens will hurt you-damn near every time you go in. Before Sweetie and I got together the kitchen and I had an agreement, I would use it only for storage and it promised never to hurt me. After thirteen years together my kitchen terror has lessened, but I still don’t trust those sinister jagged objects! I typically emerge with a singed hand, scraped knuckles or sliced fingers and to add insult to injury, there is something very wrong with everything I make. I was quite content when the items in my refrigerator consisted of a few containers of yogurt, fruit, nuts, vegetables, wine, milk and cookie dough! I’m no Donna Domestic, but I got along quite nicely—until I met Sweetie.

The dilemma is, my husband is a chef. He insists I didn’t cook a thing for him for six months after we met. He’s probably right, I was panicked to cook in front of him much less FOR him! There is no end to the litany of culinary disasters! It is soooo much less expensive to dine out- when as much goes into the trash as into the tummy!
I don’t get it; my Mom was arguably the best cook in the county. My entire life the woman was stocked up for impending famine; she could have fed the entire Lewis and Clark expedition crew at a moment’s notice. People from everywhere called her routinely for culinary advice. My brother is a super Cajun cook, my sister performs one culinary feat after another and my nieces and cousins are great cooks too-evidently the cooking gene is recessive and not uniformly passed down!

It aggravates the snot of out me to hear “Anyone can follow a recipe!” Folks, I am living proof that everyone cannot! I try to emulate Mom’s cooking skills using her recipes, follow each step and focus. To my chagrin these efforts produce miserable concoctions. It seems to be cyclic; for a couple weeks I am totally frustrated with my efforts and resolve never to cook again. Then I’ll rally, channel Mom for a few weeks and cook five or six things in a row that don’t give us indigestion.

All this commotion does not go unnoticed by the Sweetie. He is very tolerant of my culinary inadequacies and God bless him, he’s appreciates the effort. But the man has actually eaten some absolutely dreadful things, like enchilada pie that tasted more like wet tortillas and tomatoes. There was the Key Lime pie that produced an instant pucker the minute you put it to your mouth. And, then there was the time I cut the end of my finger off. I started with a large Band-Aid, progressed to several Band-Aids with gauze and ended up walking around the house with a mini pad taped to what was left of my finger!! You can’t make this kind of thing up!

When it comes to culinary arts, yes to some degree you can acquire skill. But for the most part it’s like boobs, either you got em or ya don’t. Well, I guess you can procure those too. So it’s more like singing, which I can do quite nicely, either you have the chops or ya stink. In the kitchen, I’m as stinky as they come.

“I ate her cooking for eighteen years,” he whispered. “You get used to it.” “Oh yeah, when?” “I think it happened around the seventeenth year,” Henry said.” Michael Buckley, The Everafter War

The Battle of Little Valentine

The Battle of Little Valentine

I have a “carpe diem” mug and, truthfully, at six in the morning the words do not make me want to seize the day. They make me want to slap a dead poet. ~Joanne Sherman

Years ago my brother and I were having pizza at Promenade mall in Tulsa when he gave me a long curious look and said, “Sister, I’m not sure if I trust a person who can eat just one piece of pizza!” I understood our difference. Our fellow homosapiens exhibit behaviors that baffle and sometimes annoy us. WC Fields said he didn’t trust non-drinkers. The Sweetie looses it when he sees someone back into a parking space. For me, it’s the stupiddamnshitty morning people. Waking up with bright eyes, a smile on your face and feeling rested falls into that dodgy not-quite-human category as far as I am concerned. A roommate I had in my late twenties began chirping at 6:00am before her feet hit the ground! I wanted to slap her. The number of times I have awakened with enough clarity to make a complete sentence is about five.

My Dad is a morning person and so is my sister; I’ve wanted to beat them both a time or two also. In fact when I was a kid my Dad was hell-bent on transforming me into a morning person; he thought I was just lazy. We lived in a wonderful three story house in South Dakota (the tundra, not so wonderful) and my room was upstairs. Dad and Mom grew weary of trekking up and down the stairs in failed attempts to wake me for school so they launched a full blown tactical assault.

Dad’s initial campaign consisted of a slapping me on the butt and flipping the bright lights on. Yes, this did wake me at least for a while and pissed me off considerably, but I fell right back to sleep. It then escalated to threatening me with spanking, grounding, and loss of privileges. When I weighed my options, typically I chose to go back to sleep. The next strategic maneuver dad tried was a chicken. Yes, I did say chicken. No, it wasn’t live but may as well have been. It was this huge plastic rooster which produced an absolutely ghastly crow-which he placed right by my head. Yes, this woke me up, pissed me off and I went right back to sleep. Then he bought a cow, same principal as the rooster. Pumping the tail of the cow generated a blood curdling MOOOOO, which woke me, pissed me off and I was right back to sleep. We were at a stalemate until Mom and Dad bought walkie-talkie telephones- yep, just like the army. This was in the day before cell phones you remember. I had no efficacious exit strategy; I was disarmed. Dad kept calling me on the walkie-talkie phone until I surrendered and finally peeled myself from the warm bed. They did not resort to water boarding; the hateful walkie-talkie campaign was successful.

When a child has such strong aversion to waking up in the morning- parents please realize that they just have a vastly different circadian rhythm! God did not make all of us morning people!! Really. I actually used to put my clothes on for the next day under my pajamas so the getting ready for school process would not be so taxing. That is until Mom came in one night to check on me and thought I was burning up with fever because I had on so many layers of clothing. At this juncture I should admit that I have NEVER out-grown this aversion to mornings. Even my career reflects my inability to rise and shine. I’ve been an account executive in sales all these years for a reason. When you office in your home and set your own schedule you can start the day more or less as you want. There is still nothing shining about me in the morning, nothing!

But, I do recognize the gifts of morning; the fresh undisturbed air, the clean slate waiting to be written, the quiet uncluttered dawn, the sunlight beginning to glitter on the wet grass and the precious gift of one more day. The morning seems to take shape best when I consciously intend to have a good day. To set those intentions, I spend some time each morning in the silence. Somehow God finds me there, knows I’m dumb as a rock in the morning, speaks to me anyway, and loves my company.

Life is Short

Life is Short

“I could even feel how perishable all my moments really were, how all my life they had come to me begging to be lived, to be cherished even.” ― Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair

The bed is warm and comfy, the scent of coffee has floated into the bedroom and the dream I’m in is fading. I begin to stir and slowly open my eyes. I stretch a little trying to wake up and start thinking about the day ahead when I feel it begin to cover me. It starts at the top of my head like thick Pepto-Bismol being drizzled over me, creeping down onto and into my entire body. I feel that sad sickening feeling coat my throat and chest and then settle in my gut. I recognize this unwelcome visitor, it is heartache. Then I remember; my Mom passed a few days ago. My Mom passed, with my sister Jan and me holding her hands. Heartache has come to settle in.

I want to be enveloped by God’s love so fully that I can’t feel this consuming pain. I also want some kind of assurance that I was a good daughter; I want to know that I did extend myself for my mother the best I could. I want to feel that I focused on things that mattered with her. When your heart is broken, any level of intuition or discernment you have been fortunate enough to have, to hone, to listen to and act on to goes right out the window. So for now I sit in the unknowing, sure of one thing only-that my Mom and I loved each other dearly.

Life is short. You tell yourself you have time, plenty of time. You don’t. My mom used to tell me she still felt like a girl inside, only now do I understand what she meant. Even though I just turned 60 I feel like I’m 35 or 40, not physically but otherwise. A lifetime will sneak up on you before you know it. One day you’re stealing kisses in the back seat of Bobby Joe’s car with his many octopus arms coming at you from all angles; you’d push one away and here came another. High school boys are just dreadful creatures. The next thing you know you’re 60 with a growing awareness that the ride will be over before your ready.

For me it’s like eating ice cream; no matter what size bowl I have I always want more when the bowl is empty-100% of the time. So I pick up the bowl and lick it clean just like an over stimulated six pound Chihuahua who wants more. I am aching for more of my Mom, more time with her, more laughing with her, more meals with her, more being her daughter. I suppose many of us also yearn for more when we too reach the end of life’s path. Most of us wish to live as long as we can with quality of life. And, some would actually choose more time without quality of life. There is trepidation for our departure for many. The wise old woman I am struggling to nurture inside would be ready. She would as gracefully as she could usher in the next phase of her spirit’s journey, releasing that tight hold on this life.

I will never look at our time here in the same way; I feel a strange oneness with the world I have not felt before. It’s a new awareness that most everything we do impacts someone else. There is also a renewed awareness that even though we are spirit, we are meant to experience fully this short stay in our physical bodies, the tastes, the touch, the sights, the wondrous sounds and love we are graced with. The time we have here is precious; we empty our bodies of youth and fill our spirits with love and lessons we need. My Mom has passed and her spirit has gone to what’s next and I know God was waiting to welcome her and is her biggest fan.

Twenty Five Summers

Twenty Five Summers

That relentless Oklahoma City wind brought a dark cold cloud last week. Those who refer to Chicago as the windy city sure never spent a winter here! This time of year I begin to feel a familiar feeling of dread and an overwhelming desire to flee the bitter weather that is inching toward me. As I drive through my neighborhood I see golden leaves shimmer in the sunlight and know the next couple days will turn them to shriveled brown memories. A chill comes over me that generally does not cease till spring. I am not a fan of winter. In fact, winter scares me a bit. I spent the first eight years of my life in South Dakota and I know how frigid air can change your life or end it. As soon as the cold hits I undergo a transformation. I feel an ache in every part of my body, I become stiff, my muscles grow tight, I become grumpy, and poof- I am Estelle Getty complete with attitude. Summer on the other hand makes me come alive! I can walk in the park at eight o’clock at night, open the door early in the morning and not get chilled, enjoy an extra range of motion in my limbs and sit on the patio and read-just a few of the things I will not be able to do soon.

I was thinking of summer today and how few I may have left, maybe just 20 to 25. That gets your attention doesn’t it? More and more I feel such a sense of urgency about my life. I don’t want to waste the time I have left on lower things that steal my time, my energy, my peace, and my clarity of thought. I worked for a publishing house in the 1980’s and had the summers off. I used to turn the television off all summer, do volunteer work, read, write and walk. I could do without most of the television programs shown now. I don’t want to fill my head and distract my spirit with vulgar mindless prattle. The same goes for loud talking people who rattle on incessantly (regardless of what they are rattling about). I also have grown weary of those extra violent moves, and I never need to see another Transformer as long as I live. Is this how we are choosing to define our lives?

I do not think this is what God had in mind for us. That path leads to unsatisfied lives and fatigued souls. What God has in mind for us is to focus on higher things, fill our lives with books that teach and inspire, programs that both entertain and enlighten, and people who nurture their best selves and encourage us to do the same. The thing that actually matters most in this life people miss completely, doing the work of the soul. This is why we are here my friends.

I read everything I can get my hands on written by Sue Monk Kidd (author of “The Secret Life Of Bees”) who started out as a nurse and had the privilege of being present for the last moments of some of her patients’ lives. From reading her stories, their regrets were not of things they had done, but of things they had not done, of forgiving words not spoken, trips not taken, time not spent with children, and deeds not done for those in need. Marianne Williamson tells the story of a Jewish man named Arlan who dies and meets God. The man is afraid God will ask him why he was not Abraham or why he was not Joshua, but what God asked him was “Why were you not Arlan?” The strongest regret of all is for not living authentically, for not having the courage to express who we are.

Many of us fail to show ourselves, because at the end of the day we feel that cold winter wind come over us and hear that old “Not Good Enough” song playing. I’ve heard it, put it to bed and then felt it wake again. It happens to us all, but what we should remember is that we need to do absolutely nothing to be worthy. We simply are worthy just as we are and we are treasured by a loving God who sees us fully and is our biggest fan. The highest, strongest desires of our hearts are there because God placed them there and wants us to live them out. When we fall short, act like fools, cuss the dog, drop the ball at work, say hurtful things to loved ones, forget who we are, and hate ourselves for it; God is there with us and sad with us. Grace is a wonderful thing; it assures us that tomorrow we can count on God’s renewal to warm our cold tired bodies and assure our spirits that another summer is just around the corner.