Cracked

I took a theatre class in college.

Actually, I took many theatre classes in college. I majored in theatre.

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Photo Credit: Bob Maloney, Photos2Admire.com

I attended a private, liberal arts university well known for its prestigious business school. The sprawling 350 acres of lush green and historic red brick buildings echoed the footsteps of Tim Hightower, Douglas S. Freeman, and Leland D. Melvin, not to mention 38 professional athletes, coaches, and managers, 13 US Representatives and Senators, Governors, Mayors, CEOs, Pulitzer Prize winners, and a celeb or two (think, Lil Dicky and the lead singer of the Lumineers). Out of the 2600 or so 4-year universities in the nation, it ranks #32.

(Oh, and if you are still wondering who Leland D. Melvin is… well, this picture might help)

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And in light of all the signs pointing toward the value of a prestigious business degree, I followed the scent of sawdust and masochism and headed straight for the theatre building.

If you know anything about theatre, we rarely ever do it for the prestige.We have 8 am classes, work through our lunch break, and paint sets until late into the night. We work Saturdays and Sundays and every other day for one show. Four months of work for five two hour performances. And. It’s magical.

Anyway, back to that one theatre class I took.

We were studying Strasberg. Sense memory. The idea that you can recreate the physical conditions of an experience using just your mind.

We were told to go home and enjoy our favorite drink in our favorite cup.

Easy.

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I have a favorite sea-foam green coffee mug. From Ikea. It’s lightweight. Smooth. Cracked at the top. As I sat with my steaming mug of coconut chai tea, thinking only about “the way the mug fit in my hands,” “the scent and taste of the drink,” “the weight of mug and the feel of the steam on my face,” (yeah, I was totally into this exercise, by the way) my thumb eased over the crack in the lip of the mug comfortably.

I knew it was there. I knew it would always be there.

When I got back to class and pretended to hold that sea-foam green mug in my hands, I closed my eyes and I didn’t seek the smell of the coconut chai, or the feel of the thick steam on my face. I pushed my thumb out toward the lights and hooked it into the invisible crack.

It’s been over two years since I graduated from college. It’s been just as long since I took a theatre class or stood on a stage.

What has not change, however, is nightly cuddling.

Since my youngest son was born, we cuddle every night before bed. “5 minute cuddle,” we call it. We talk about our day: “What was your best?” “What was your worst?” Sometimes we fall asleep talking. Sometimes we don’t talk at all.

The other night, we lie there, Big Spoon, Little Spoon. Silent. I was giving in to the warmth and the dark when suddenly I realized Little Spoon was crying.

“Jay?” I gasped.

He turned his chubby little body to face me, our noses touching at the tips.

“I miss your mom,” he sobbed, and turned back over with effort.

I didn’t move. Or breathe. For several second. The pain hit instantly and I was paralyzed by the suddenness of my grief. Our grief.

He sobbed for several minutes while I rubbed his back. I sobbed silently behind him. After a while, he whispered desperately at the wall, “Why did she choose to leave me?” He sobbed some more.

I pulled him closer and started thinking about the words he had used. “Why did she CHOOSE to leave me?”

Jayden is five.

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Jayden and my mom, the day he was born

At five years old, many of the choices he makes are shrugged off as, “he doesn’t know any better.” “He’s only five.” Yet, it was clear now that that was not true. He understood choice. He understood the possibility of empathy. He understood the concept of abandonment. Grandma had chosen to die. Her choice.

I realized I had not responded and “I’m sorry” fell out of my mouth onto his hair. I must have said it four or five times before his body went slack in my arms. His breathing slowed and he snuggled in closer to my chest.

It was over. The sobbing had passed and still nothing had changed. She was still gone.

Just when I thought he was completely asleep, Jayden shushed me softly and replied, “I’m sorry too, mommy. My heart is just a little bit cracked.”

I pulled him in as close as I could and hooked my thumbs into the invisible cracks. A memory I will never forget.

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Lonely Exile

I have no idea how old she was when she played the cello. How long she played. If she played very well at all.

“I miss playing the cello,” she would say.

She closed her eyes when music stirred her spirit. She loved Christmas hymns more than anyone I’ve ever met. She sang from a place within her most people never use. “O Holy Night.” As if she were there. She sang for the Christ child as if she were the only one to ever sing it. A love song to the Lord.

As a child I wrapped more gifts than I unwrapped. I sang more than I was sung to. I fed more than I ate. My mother taught me the true meaning of Christmas. She taught me selflessness. Humility. Sacrifice. It’s more than filling a bag of old toys for the faceless poor. It’s more than making handmade gifts. It’s more.

I can hear her voice in the cello. I can feel the depth of her love. I can hear it louder than I could when she was here.

****

My son turned four today. He turned three, she was here. He turned four, she was gone.

Last Christmas she was here. Today she is gone.

I don’t want this sacrifice.

I don’t want to rejoice.

I want to stand beside my mother on a dark doorstop drifting through the lyrics of “O Come Emmanuel.” I want to feel her warm knotted hands in mine. I want to hear her laughter. Indescribable. I no longer remember.

I no longer remember the words to “O Come Emmanuel.”

I no longer have any idea how old she was when she played the cello. How long she played. If she played very well at all.

He doesn’t vaccinate either.

He doesn’t vaccinate either.

I like this post because he posts links to back each one of his facts so you can see the numbers in a way that is understandable.

For example: yes, 1.6 per 100,000 children die per year from Rotavirus. According to the NCBI, the vaccine “could have prevented 21 of those deaths.” That’s it, 21. Best way to prevent it? WASH YOUR HANDS. See for yourself here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21691244.

From the CDC website: “Regardless of vaccination, approximately 34 per 100,000 infants will be hospitalized for intussusception in the first year of life in the US.”

“[But] 40 to 120 vaccinated U.S. infants might develop intussusception each year.” http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/rotavsb.html

So, let’s see… 1.6 out of 100,000 dies from Rotavirus. 34 per 100,000 will get it (and live) whether they are vaccinated or not. And 1-3 out of 100,000 will get intussusception FROM the vaccine.

Rotavirus is a stomach bug that babies are vaccinated against FIVE times. FIVE times the risk trying to prevent them from something they might get any way. Do your research.

And if that doesn’t explain why I’m not scared of Rotavirus:

10 out of 100,000 children die from a bicycle accident each year! http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812018.pdf

To Whom It May Concern

I’m not a fan of radio talk shows but this morning when I turned on the car the local morning duo was discussing something that caught my ear. 

Suicide notes.

Apparently some celebrity died and left a note and there was a debate as to whether or not this was the right thing to.

So, okay. Pause. 

We are discussing the morality… of a note… after suicide. Let it sit.

Okay.

Moving on.

Listening to them discuss the pain that a note would cause the survivors had me thinking. Why is it only in a suicide situation that we scramble around looking for a note, for a reason to justify our pain? Whenever we lose someone aren’t we all trying to find that one last source of answers. Maybe… even pain? 

Well, I am.

When my mom passed away I went through every single thing in her room. I read every single paper. I opened every bill and bank statement and sticky note. Desperate. Searching. 

I’m not even sure for what.

A note, maybe. A sign. To touch her handwriting. To hear her voice saying the words. 

I went through the papers four, and five times. There were no notes. There were no answers. But every now and then I do open her calendar and run my fingers over the letters and numbers, the L’s with the big loops and the C’s with the wide arches. I place my hand where she placed hers and the meaning of the words fall away. It’s not a note, but it’s something she left me. 

I think leaving a note, whether it is because you are going out for the day, or ending your life, is the right thing (again, context here) to do. 

There will be people waiting and when it comes, it will be a searing pain that you can never outlive or outrun, but the alternative is nothing, and shit, you’ve already got enough of that at this point.

 

Tagged

Edible Scars

Growing up poor changed my relationship with food. 

There were times that we absolutely did not have enough food; when we did, food was used as rewards, a way to comfort, and as part of bonding. My mom very rarely made cookies when I was growing up, so when she did, I knew that meant she was happy. That made me happy. So I ate them. 

For as long as I can remember, my mom made popcorn after dinner every night. It was her comfort food. We would sit together and share a bowl. It became my comfort. Now that she is gone, the smell of popcorn brings me right to her side. I can see her face, and hear her laugh.

And then I remember. 

Since my mom died in January, there are certain I cannot or will not eat anymore: pretzels, pasta with red sauce, coffee creamer. When I see or smell those things something in me just shuts down. I get sick to my stomach. 

At first, the bananas turning brown on the counter didn’t bother me. It seemed like a very logical thing to do: make banana bread. Of course it did.

Slowly, but surely, as I started to gather the ingredients and measure them out; as I turned the wooden spoon against the mixing bowl; as I debated whether or not to make a crumb topping – it hit me.

All at once, the smells and the sounds and the feeling of my mother in the room sent me straight to the floor in a heap.

She’d leave out the cinnamon because she knew I didn’t like it. 

She’d prefer to use butter and flour to grease the pan over Pam. 

She’d remind me every 10 minutes for an entire hour, not to overcook it. 

I waited.

She didn’t say any of those things because she wasn’t there and that broke my heart. I searched for her in a box of oreos, and then a package of candy, and then a glass of wine. I felt the guilt and the shame of my actions and to my hindsight horror: it felt good. I wanted to hurt myself and that was the only way I knew how. 

The banana bread went in the garbage. She would have hated it anyway; it was gluten free. 

And today, I’m taking the day off from school to get my shit together. To clean the house, put fresh produce in the fridge, and to get some of these thoughts off my chest and onto the page. I thought about baking cookies for the kids: “they will love that,” I thought. 

Yeah, the nature of the beast. 

So instead, I picked up a large set of watercolor paints and paintbrushes. I can make any memories I want to with my kids and I don’t have to create unhealthy relationships with food to remind them that I love them. Brownies are here today, gone tomorrow today but the pictures we paint together can last forever. 

Memories don’t have to hurt. 

 

 

 

I Really Want to Need That

I spent some time this week listening to people say the word “need.” My family, specifically. What is it that they think they need? What is it that they say they need? How often does the word get thrown out without a second thought?

***

See the back story is that we are moving. We have to be out of our beloved home on August 1 so that the homeowner can move back in. (Funny, I often wondered why in the world they would have given this place up for rent… I guess they realized that too…)

We are searching for a new home because we need a place to live, obviously. Here is what we decided that home “needs”:

4 or 5 bedrooms

At least 2 bathrooms

At least 2000 square feet

A refrigerator (with a water/ice maker!)

Central heat and air

A rent of $1200-$1400/month

Gas heat

Hardwood floors

Ceiling fans

More than one floor/level

A fenced back yard

A deck

Allows pets

In a specific school zone

A fireplace

WHOA. It didn’t seem like so much in my head and when we talk about it… On paper it’s another story.

WHAT IS IT WE REALLY NEED?

Is that the reason we haven’t been able to find out dream home in FIVE months of searching?

***

Yesterday we saw a house in the school zone we need. (See! There it is again!) We decided that was our number one priority.

It was a 5/2 with the world’s tiniest kitchen (with a fridge! No ice maker…), carpet floors, no central a/c, a huge fenced in back yard, pet friendly, two floors, no ceiling fans or fireplace, and gas heat.

What a funny place to be….

Where you can’t decide the difference between what you “need” and what you “want.”

The rent is $1150.

***

So now the stakes change again.

Do we “need” those extra things like an ice maker and ceiling fans if we are saving $250/month in rent? Could that $3000 make such a difference in our lives that we forget about not having a fireplace or hardwood floors?

All of a sudden, I think it can.

We “need” to save money for the important things in life. We “wanted” a deck.

We’re gonna take this house. We’re going to live a bit closer together, pinch a few more pennies, and maybe, build our own deck. Besides, it’s something we really want. =)

When Life Gives You Crumbs… Eat Chocolate

I had big plans for today.

That’s right, I was finally going to buckle down and master this new recipe. My customers are waiting!

I meant well and I had a real solid plan.

Here’s how it happened…. (enter dream transition music)

I had 3 leftover scrap bags of broken up homemade granola crumbs. It was good stuff! It just wouldn’t stick together! (Don’t you hate that?!)

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The way I figured, I had three options:

1. Throw them away

2. Sprinkle them in ANOTHER bowl of yogurt

3. Eat chocolate candy

Wait, what?

That’s right… after a little web surfing and soul searching, I found 2 recipes that would give my granola crumbs a solid second chance.

Making new granola bars for the customers would have to wait just one more day….

Thank you to:

Beyond the Peel for their Coconut Oil Chocolate recipe (http://www.beyondthepeel.net/2012/06/coconut-oil-chocolate-recipe.html)

and

Bev Cooks for her Chocolate Coconut Granola Bites inspiration (http://bevcooks.com/2013/05/chocolate-coconut-granola-bites/)

Granola Crumbs Candy Bars

Makes one 13″ baking pan full of treats

Ingredients:

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A shmatter of granola/granola bar crumbs – I guess I had about 2.5 cups

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1-2 Tbsp. honey (depends on how sweet you like it. I used 1)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Melt coconut oil over medium heat, JUST until melted. Whisk in honey, vanilla, and then cocoa, whisking until just blended.

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2. Pour chocolate mix over granola crumbles in a good sized bowl.

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(see that rouge chocolate chip in there? mmmm)

3. Mix well and spread onto a wax papered cookie sheet.

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4. Pack in tightly and refrigerate until you can’t wait any longer. Let’s say 4 minutes. No! Kidding! Like 30. (I know, right?)

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5. Serve this healthy snack to your family and be the best ever.

Drunken Blog

Hey.

If you’re reading this, you made a mistake. You stumbled upon my blog from God knows where and you hit “subscribe” because the material was wacky and at the end of a long day, well, you can use a good, weird, laugh.

You’re welcome.

I don’t tell people about my blog, or link it on my Facebook page. I started it so I could have a safe place to unload my crazy thoughts and irrational fears. I started it so I could have a place to write when I was drunk.

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Wanna know why I’m drunk?

It’s almost my birthday.

Silly, I know, right?

Yet, here it is. The BIG one. The game changer. The detonator of all things youthful and wrinkle-free.

30.

AHHAHAHHAHHAHAHHHHHHHH.

Whew, I feel better.

I never in a million years thought I would be 30. 20 came and went. And 21 (cheers!) and 25 (rent a car!) and 29 (the supposedly “forever”) and then what? Then reality kicked in. The 15 pounds (OKAY 30) I can’t lose. The crow’s nests. The ever present biological clock (long-since tapped out) ticking in my mind’s ear.

Nothing that a bottle of Twisted Red Zinfandel and French Onion Soup Wontons can’t fix, right?

wine

OH MY GOSH, I just set the stage for a recipe post. I WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN!

***

Over the Hill French Onion Soup Wontons

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Ingredients:

2 Tbsp butter

2 yellow onions – cut into strips

2 tsp sugar

1.5 tsp thyme

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

1/2 cup Beef broth

24 wonton wrappers

1 cup Gouda cheese – shredded

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400*

Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray

Melt butter in large pan over high heat. Add onions and saute 3-4 minutes. Add sugar, thyme, salt and pepper.  Stir until well combined.

Add beef broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove onions from heat.

Place wonton wrappers into greased muffin tins.

Spoon 1 Tbsp. onion mixture into each wonton wrapper.

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Top with Gouda cheese.

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Bake 2o minutes at 400*.

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***

Good news: these bad boys are AMAZING

Bad news: You’re STILL 30…..

“That’s So Gay”

Numb.

Hatred, judgement, racism.

Words come flying out of our mouths and before we know it, the damage is done.

2 years ago I met a man who would go on to be what I considered a mentor, an inspiration, and a very dear friend. But because I let stereotypes guide me, I failed to “watch what I said” around him. One day it slipped: “that’s so gay,” I said. I meant nothing offensive by the comment, yet in that moment, in his face, I could see instantly what I had done.

This man, my mentor, did not berate me or despise me for what I had done. He educated me, he shared his story, and in turn, a part of himself that changed a part of myself. He told me how he had been persecuted, berated, and beaten for his “crime” of being gay. He did not have to share this painful story with me – but because he did, I was able to see how one simple action, one simple word, could make a change in someone’s life.

I have never – never – again used the word “gay” to imply “the lesser,” “the sub par,” and I am truly horrified that I ever did. We are all, every one of us, God’s creation. God never asked me if I was okay with that, and it’s not for me to decide.

My mother was horrified that DOMA was struck down. “Abhorrent” was the word she used. For a second, I had nothing to say. I was rendered speechless by her hate.

Then I remember the look on my mentor’s face when I said “that’s so gay,” and I just told her how I felt. I told her that I would explain to my children that we would always practice love and tolerance whether it was something we believed or lived ourselves. I told her that it was not our fight and therefore, not our place to judge. That God made EACH OF US in His image and if we hate our brothers and sisters – gay or otherwise – then according to scripture, we hate Him.

For a brief minute she argued. She spouted off long-since memorized retorts to the growing acceptance of same-sex couples and then, just when I thought I would have to walk away – she stopped.

“You’re right,” she whispered. “It’s the right thing to teach the children love and tolerance. It’s not our fight.” And with that, she smiled in such a way that I knew she understood. I had only seen her like this one other time:

In 2012 I was cast by the very man whom I had offended with my ignorant and naiive slang just months before, in his college production of “Angels in America.” To my extreme surprise, my mother had attended the show. At the end, her only tearful comment was, “That was so powerful.” She did not agree with homosexuality, but for the first time, she had seen them – “the gays” – as human.

And now this. A one-on-one talk about the importance of love and acceptance.

To tell you the truth, I am glad that I said, “That is so gay” to my professor. If I had not, I would not have had a chance to learn… to grow… and to share. My ignorance, and the TOLERANCE of one patient man, changed my life.

 

 

“I Wish I Had Done it Years Ago”

“If I had it my way, I would go back to school,” she blurted out in the car.

My mother and I were out of the house for the second time in two weeks. This time? She wanted to go junking. We found a nice dresser, an outdoor playhouse for the kids, and a sandbox. She told me the stories about how she would go junking with her family as a kid. We bonded over other people’s junk. A good day, I say.

And then out of nowhere, she just drops it on me: “I wish I had gotten my Master’s 20 years ago. Or maybe 10. Or at least 5.”

All of those are times that I think of as “before.” Before she had other tough choices to make. Before she stopped putting herself first. Before she got sick.

But she didn’t – and now she regrets it.

It’s no secret that I have been considering the next step after I finish my last year of undergrad. I will be 30 when I graduate. Hell, I’ll be 30 next week.

Of course grad school has come up… shot down… back up… shot down… I just don’t know.

I have heard all the good and the bad. I know that the only good it does me is the one area I get it in. I know that I will work just to pay back my loans. I know that it will be another 2 years of soul-sucking exhaustion. I know. I know. I know. I also know that I don’t really stand a chance at a job without it. I know that my competition is 10 years younger and not as “over-extended” as I am. I know that if I don’t do it now, I never will.

I can see myself in the car with my daughter, Lucy. Her blond curly locks tossing around her head as she checks for crossing traffic. She is energetic, courageous, ready for anything life hands her. I’m older. Tired. Heavy with memories, forgotten dreams. I don’t mean to say it, it comes out almost a whisper. But with her head turned away from me, I feel suddenly compelled to set the noise free: “I wish I had done it years ago,” I cry out. I can’t ever take it back.

And in a blink, it’s over. Lucy is still 4 and my mother is beside me, eyes glossed over with regret.

The list of MFA programs sits on my screen staring at me. The deadline is not creeping up but rushing in like a deadly tide. At some point I will make a choice, and one of those choices is right, and one of those choices is wrong. And the truth be told, I’m scared.

Yep, me. Sitting here in RVA. Left everything behind for this chance. Faced battles and won, time and again. I. Am. Scared.

Today. Just today, I don’t know what is scarier. Chasing a dream or being chased by regret.