Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The truest essence of love is not for someone else to make you happy, but to be made happy simply by knowing the one you love is happy.

The Less I Have, the Richer I've Become

Two years ago, I had what appeared to be, a charmed life. A great husband, a good job with the largest hospital system in the area, a lovely home in the suburbs, a Mercedes in the driveway, pool in the backyard, a dog, two cats, and grandchildren who came to stay every summer. We had an enormous comfort zone. Sure, we worked hard at it -our jobs during the weekdays, and for me, weekends and holidays. On our shared weekends off, yard work, garden work, renovation work. Work, work, work. But the payoffs were, as the list above indicates, what drove us, and we thought we were pretty happy. And then, my husband got sick. Not just a little sick. Very sick. Almost died kind of sick. And everything changed. I spent long hours at the hospital – either at my job, or visiting my husband, negotiating with the team of doctors, all of whom included, at one time or another, a hepatologist, an orthopedist, an endocrinologist, a cardiologist, a nutritionist. Juggling. Being angry that the man it took nearly all my adult life (we met when I was 40) was going to be taken away from me all too soon. Being angry that the doctors couldn’t make him well. Being angry at anything or anyone besides my husband who needed me, because at the worst point, I was needy, and I felt incredibly alone. Being angry at everything we had, because without him, it all meant nothing to me. The anger got me through a lot of tough days and nights, I have to admit. It was what sometimes kept me going when I would have much rather stayed in bed with the covers pulled over my head in the despair I felt. But the anger was eating me alive, as I sunk deeper and deeper into it. Keeping up appearances requires a tremendous amount of energy. I was fired from my job. I got even more angry, feeling I’d been betrayed by my own industry that demands so much for our patients but gives so little to those who care for them exhaustively. My husband was getting worse. I got even more angry. I couldn’t have my grandchildren for the summer, and I missed them. I become even more angry as vestiges of what was our idyllic life slipped away before me in grass that needed to be mowed, repairs that were started but left unfinished because I couldn’t handle them alone – physically or financially. And then, I decided enough was enough. I cut my already short gray hair to less than a half inch…I was sick of it feeling hot, and I didn’t have the time for appearances. I felt liberated, the first glimmer of liberation I’d felt in months. As a result of the short hair, I didn’t have to spend money on hair products, and found a recipe for homemade hair care products from household items that lacked chemicals. I made them, and used them, and no one was any worse the wear for it. So I started making all of our household cleaning products from vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and tea tree oil. The savings was palpable, and I felt like I was not only being fiscally responsible, I was being ecologically responsible, and exposing my husband to fewer toxins. We decided to eschew the recommended treatment modalities, and sought the expertise of a doctor 1800 miles away. In order to fund our trip and the treatment, which was off label, out of pocket and uncovered by insurance, we began to sell the things we rarely used – the trappings of our comfortable life in the suburbs. At first, I was anxious, depressed, and still angry – we’d worked so hard for all of this. Would it work? Would we be left with nothing? What would we be left with in the end but perhaps his illness and nothing else? We went, and the empirical data indicated success with the treatment. He’ll never be cured, but my husband will have a quality life. Because we couldn’t afford to keep making the trip every three months, we decided to move there, as a result, the divestiture of our life in the suburbs continued. We are planning a move from a 5 bedroom, 3 bath home to a 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment. We are leaving all but the necessary behind, the rest has been given away to our children and friends, thrown away, or sold at yard sales and eBay. We stopped going out for dinner – unable to afford restaurants, and opting for a raw, vegan or vegetarian meal for my husband’s health. I didn’t need nice clothes to wear – I lived in my old jeans and scrubs. And the more that went, the lighter the load, and the more liberated we became from our lifestyle, the richer we became in love, and gratitude, and things that really matter in life – at least, the things that really matter to us. The anger has subsided, and now, when I step onto the inversion table to work that spasm from my back out, I can clear my mind – even if for only five minutes, and feel lighter, and happier again. We feel hopeful again. We laugh. We dream. And despite the “For Sale” sign on the Mercedes, the now emptied attics, crawlspace and rooms in this cavernous house, we have realized that our home is really in the heart of each other, and we have much to be grateful for. Most importantly, we’re happier. We no longer work for something that says who we are. We ARE who we are. Not a whole lot of status, but much substance. And because of that, we are richer every day for having less.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This morning, while watching ABC's "Good Morning" show, host Chris Wragge misused the term, "quote, unquote" by preceeding John Perry's statement that (he'd) "really stepped in it" at the previous night's debates. The term Chris, is to preceed the quoted words with the word "quote" and then follow the last word with the word "unquote". By doing so, there is no confusion with the exact vernacular of the statement. I was incensed by his gaffe. If journalists misuse the term, how can we expect mainstream to learn correct use of terms. Which got me thinking...

I shouldn't, and couldn't care less. But I do. But how many people say, "I could care less?" (Notice the correct use of the quotation marks here folks. If you're verbalizing it, they are stated in the same order they are written with relationship to the words.) By saying, "I could care less" one implies that they still have a modicum of regard for the subject at hand. It defies the implied (and I'll get to implied, inferred and insinuated here in a minute) sentiment that one has lost all regard for the subject, which is reason for making the statement in the first place.

To imply means to suggest without being explicit in one's statement. To infer is to derive through reasoning, or logic. It's synonymous to imply. To insinuate is to suggest or hint it. So I might insinuate that Chris Wragge does not have a good command of the english language by his improper use of the term "quote - unquote", but one infers that for themself as they hear him make the statement once they understand the context of the correct use.

While I have my soapbox out, can I tell you how many college educated adults fail to understand the difference between there, their and they're? Or two, to and too? How about are and our and yes, even hour. Here's a hint for the first set. They're is the contraction of "they are". (Notice the use of the quotation marks?) One uses the apostrophe where the letter is dropped when building contractions. It also denotes ownership, but that's a whole different lesson, one that even I occasionally struggle with and have to resort to looking up when using contractions to imply ownership when the name ends with the letter "s", as with my son Miles. While it is correct to write "Miles's sons" or "my son's sons" it would NOT be correct to write "Miles' sons" because there's only one Miles (one Miles - but it is grammatically correct, and a fact for which I am grateful, given his struggles with growing up a square peg in a round hole). If Trevor had sons, I could say, "my sons' sons" and be correct if I were referring to their collective male offspring.

Getting back to the difference between they're, there and that we've established that they're is really two words, "there" indicates where. Notice the word "here" is in both of them? Not sure still? The next time you need to use there/their, ask yourself "where is there?" The answer is always "here". Now you know which one to use. Oh, and just to confuse you...if you were to say, "All of these sons are theirs" you would be correct to not use the apostrophe, because the possessive pronoun already implies ownership. What really gets me in a tizzy is the fact that anyone can self-correct and edit since there is this marvelous invention called "spellcheck". There's also a grammar check program too, and of course, google, bing and a host of other search engines in which one can look up the correct spelling, grammar and usage. Now hurry up, let's go eat Grampa. While we're eating, we can watch Nat Geo and see a why a panda eats, shoots, and leaves. See what I mean?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creamy Shrimp with Corn and Bacon, followed by Chipotle Shrimp and Salad

I'm not sure who cooks up the recipes that appear in Real Simple magazine, but here's more of the tried and true favorites from there.

Cook 1 cup dry Jasmine rice according to whatever recipe/directions yields your best rice. I put 1 cup of rinsed Jasmine/Basmati rice in 2 cups of water with a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. I let it sit 20 minutes, then turn the heat on High until it boils, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer until the water is gone.

While that's in the works, cook a package of bacon by whatever method yields your best bacon. I pan fry, slowly. You'll need 8 slices for this recipe. Put the remainder in the refrigerator for other recipes. What's the sense of cooking half a package of bacon, ever? Set the eight pieces of bacon for this recipe aside for now.

With a little of the bacon fat left in the pan, saute 1 large, chopped white onion. Cook it until it's translucent and soft, about 4 - 6 minutes. Add 1 cup of dry white wine and cook until it's reduced by half - about 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and bring to a boil.

Stir in 2 pounds of large shrimp, peeled and deveined, and 1 pound of frozen corn. I like to use PictSweet Frozen Baby White Corn in this recipe. It's sweet and tender, and is flavored perfectly for this dish. Simmer all together for about 4 - 6 minutes. Ladle the soup over bowls of warm rice, and garnish with crumbled bacon.

Serve with garlic bread made with thick slabs of Italian bread slathered with butter, pureed garlic and a liberal sprinkling of Cotija cheese.

Here's my OTHER favorite Shrimp dish from Real Simple.

Chipotle Shrimp with Radish and Jicama Salad (except I don't use Jicama)

The recipe calls for one small jicama (about a pound) that is peeled and cut into 2 inch matchsticks. I substituted Granny Smith apples when I couldn't get jicama at my local grocery store, and it is every bit as delicious. You can also mix the apple with julienned celery, although I wasn't quite as impressed with that as using just the apples.
8 radishes sliced into thin half-moons
1/2 of a bermuda (red) onion, sliced thin
A bunch (about 1/2 cup) of fresh cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup of golden raisins
Mix together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 cup lime juice (fresh is best) and salt and pepper.

Cook 2 pounds of large peeled and deveined shrimp in Old Bay according to the Old Bay package directions (only takes about 4 minutes.) Drain the liquid, and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the shrimp in the pan, and sprinkle liberally with chili powder, and toss in pan until fully coated. Do not cook more than 1 minute. Serve with the salad.

I serve this one with Saffron rice, and Vera Cruz corn, chips and guacamole for an all out feast.

The Vera Cruz corn is corn, either cooked on the cob or off (again, I defer back to that PictSweet Baby White Corn...PictSweet vegetables are fabulous time savers in so many of these recipes, and they are excellent quality.) If you use corn on the cob, coat the cob with a liberal portion of mayonnaise. Yep, I said mayo. Roll the cob in Cotija cheese that has been finely grated. Sprinkle with Cayenne pepper and serve with fresh wedges of lime. If you use the frozen bagged corn, stir in a few tablespoons each of mayo and Cotija cheese. Sprinkle with Cayenne and lime juice.

My Guac, as made by Caliente Cab Company in avocado, mashed. A small onion, chopped. A tomato, chopped. Juice of 1 fresh lime. Half a bunch of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped. Salt and pepper to taste. Lots of blue corn chips for color and taste.

Dos Equis, or Corona on the side, Pearl if you are lucky enough to find it.

Best savored with your best bitch girlfriends.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Memphis Soul Pork and Beans

I love to cook...because I love to eat. I've decided to blog some of my favorite recipes. I have to admit they aren't original, and in fact, most of my favorites are either family recipes adapted somehow to suit my taste, or from Real Simple magazine. So, giving credit where credit is's the first. This one is an adaptation from a prepackaged kit. I just didn't want to buy the kit anymore, because I knew it could replicate it. I can't remember what it was called, but I call it Memphis Soul Pork and Beans.

You'll need:
2 large fresh sweet potatoes - not to be confused with Yam, which is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea, and can grow up to 2.5 meters in length[2] and weigh up to 70 kg (154 pounds). Cut into 1" cubes

1 cup of dried pinto beans, rinsed and picked over

approximately 3 pounds of pork - I like to take a roast, and cut it into 1" cubes. It's easiest to cube the meat while it's still partially frozen.

1/2 cup of barbeque sauce - I prefer a sweeter molasses based sauce

1 package of onion soup mix

14 oz can of diced tomato, or the equivalent of fresh, chopped (about 2 medium)

6 cups water

cumin - about a teaspoon
ancho - about a half teaspoon
chili - about a half teaspoon

Arrange the cubed pork in the bottom of a crock pot or dutch oven. Next add the pinto beans, then the cubed sweet potatoes. Dump in the can of tomatoes. Mix the package of dry onion soup mix with the barbeque sauce and 6 cups of water and pour it over the pork, beans and sweet potatoes. Add cumin, chili and ancho spices to taste. We love cumin, so I use a rounded teaspoon, and about a 1/2 teaspoon of chili and ancho. Cover and set crock pot to low, or place dutch oven on stovetop and simmer LONG and slow - for at least 6 - 8 hours.

Serve it with cornbread and your favorite Elvis CD.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In case you haven't already heard or read about the six year old boy who was suspended from school for bringing his boy scout utensil - which happened to include a knife, to school, here's the link to The Early Show on CBS. Now, I've got to tell you, I am NOT happy about this at all. Let me start by saying that I believe all Zachary Christie learned is that if you make enough noise, you can be relieved of your responsibility to own your transgressions. Not a great lesson to teach a six year old.

While I believe the 45 day suspension was probably not commensurate with the crime, and for an otherwise good kid to be placed in juvenile detention isn't the answer, what Zach Christie's family did was clearly wrong. His parents KNEW the school had a zero tolerance policy for knives. Maybe Zach isn't the kind of kid who would ever hurt anyone with a knife, but did his parents ever think they still were breaking the rules when they allowed him to go to school with the knife? Did they ever think what might have happened if another child had taken possesion of the knife and been hurt, or hurt another, either accidentally or intentionally? And what would they have felt had the schoolboard not reversed it's decision and sent Zach to juvenile detention for 45, or even ONE day?

If his parents disagreed with the rule, why didn't they petition the school board to review the policy, instead of breaking it and then complaining it wasn't fair. Would they have petitioned the school board as strenuously as they did had another child been subjected to the same disciplinary action under the same terms? Would they have championed the cause had another child been injured, even unintentionally?

I don't like rule breakers. If you don't like a rule, the best way to change it is from within. You honor it, you petition it, you march against it, you demonstrate, but you don't break it because you don't like it or think it's unfair. There are a lot of rules in this life that are unfair and seemingly arbitrary. That does not give you the right to break those rules, nor does it give you the right to endanger anyone else as a result of your not following the rules. Keep the knives at home folks. They don't belong in school...not even if you're a Boy Scout.