Life’s Quirks

A few weeks ago a dear friend lost his young daughter to an unforeseen medical issue. She was in excellent health, then this awful thing in her body killed her. The family is reeling.

This time last year we were dealing with our son’s sudden diagnosis & surgery for testicular cancer. Happily he’s cancer-free and has resumed life robustly.

I wished my friend’s mother, whom I never met, but who was as sweet as the summer days are long to me on social media, a happy birthday. I checked her Facebook page. No updates for a while. I suspected that she was in an assisted-living facility and wasn’t posting much on social media.

I reached out to my friend, who told me his mother passed in October. I was floored — I never saw it on social media. I had no idea. I cried as I expressed to him my sympathies on her passing, and how bad I felt in dredging up that loss. Especially since he just lost his daughter.

I’m glad his mom didn’t experience that loss. She would have been devastated, as is my friend and his family.

I’m happy he had his mom around for so many years, and very sad that she’s gone. She was always kind and supportive and cheerful on Facebook, even though we had never met. I guess she thought that any friend of her son’s was a friend of hers, and that’s what I thought, too.

So on this Father’s Day I’m not as much missing my own father, who passed 12/26/84, as I am my friend’s mother, who made it a point to always comment on my posts and be a positive force on my FB page. My own parents never had this opportunity. So I weep for that, as well as for my friend’s losses. It’s a strange thing, to feel so attached to someone to whom you aren’t related by blood, who had such an impact on my life.

Happy Father’s Day, all you dads of any kind out there. I hope you’re lifted up and appreciated the other 364 days of the year, not just when the calendar tells you to appreciate them. Being a dad is no mean feat. Neither is being a mom. Kudos to you parents everywhere.

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Puppy Life

We found Teddy within days of Beau’s passing. He’s sweet, his breeder has SO MANY SCHIPPERKES, and he’s maturing into a sweet, bright, happy dog.

He plays Schipperkeep-away at least twice a day. He can open the clothes hamper, hop in,  grab a sock, and hop out before I can react to his being in the hamper. He drags his crate pad out and around the house until I can catch him. He jumps into our large pots on the patio, bite through the watering hose, make off with the stake and emitter, and chew the bejesus out of it so it’s no longer useable. He finds the peach pits that Oliver missed and crunches them on our patio furniture.He tries to deconstruct shoes. Tonight, while I was answering a call of nature, he jumped onto the dining room table and shredded the paper napkins all over the tablecloth and floor. Oliver will occasionally rat him out but does not deter or try to corner him. That chore is left to me. Or Chris, when he’s home.

Currently he is not, and Teddy steps up the mayhem in protest to His Favorite Human’s Absence. We’re talking 2-½ days. Basically he’s a puppy, 9 mos. old, smart, and determined. It’s been 10 years since we had a puppy, and I’ve forgotten much.

I also don’t remember having a dog this bold or focused on mayhem. Maybe that’s like childbirth — you don’t remember how hard you worked until you’re Lamaze-breathing again and wondering WTF you were thinking 9 months ago on your sister-in-law’s X-rated mattress.

As challenging as this guy can be, as much as I miss his predecessor, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love how interesting life is, and how it lobs you a curve ball you don’t want but can totally handle.

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A Mother’s Lament

FYI: I might lean a little mawkish here.

Our grown children live away from us, one in Brooklyn, NY, the other in San Francisco. We keep in touch frequently via text, FaceTime, email, social media, and yet I find it’s just short of satisfying for me. I want to hold them, hug them, kiss and love on them, like we did when they were mere sprouts. Nothing beats the hug from your child, nothing. Those hugs are the warmest and most innocent, and when you’re in the middle of that hug you love that kid so damn much. You think you’ll never love so much again. In some ways that’s true. Every hug henceforth will be different. They’ll age, mature, think you’re the worst ever, etc.

Fast-forward past those teenage years and all those kins of hugs, all that dealing with teenage behaviors, and then they’re adults and they love and hug you again, differently. These adult hugs are different. They hold all the learning they’ve experienced. They hold all the regrets they have about giving you grief. They hold appreciation for all you’ve done for them. And they’re strong hugs, as though they realize that they’re aging, and know you’re aging, and they’re (in the back of their minds) worried they won’t get to hug you for years hence. I hope that’s not the case! I want to be around for all the hugs these guys bring. I’ll never not want to hug them, I’ll always remember their little kid hugs, and how they smelled, and their tiny arms wrapped tight around my neck.

It’s New Year’s Eve eve, and I’m remembering some of the most satisfying times we’ve had as a family. The camping trips to Big Sur over Thanksgiving weekend. The dance recitals, the graduations, the roller-blading, the cycling, the holiday traditions on which they insisted we hold. So many good times! Sometimes I think my best work, as a mother, is behind me. Then I hope that the best is yet to come.

Happy New Year! I hope you find your happiness in the hugs of those you love the most.

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A Holiday Musing, and a Recipe

We were fine with all the parties, cards, gifts and decorating, until the week before Christmas. Despite my flu shot in early October, a rogue strain kicked my butt to the bed for 1-½ days, and then Chris caught it, too. We lost 3 days of last-minute gift-purchasing and stressing over stocking-stuffers (disclosure: We didn’t even hang the stockings, let alone stuff them).

The important things were done, so by Christmas Eve we were all fine, attending our friends’ annual open house (they knock themselves out with the baking, steaming, cooking and gracious hosting), then home to watch some Christmas movies with our son, who arrived with his friend’s dog, on Saturday while we were out.

Some of our holiday traditions are from Chris’s and my childhoods, and some are what we’ve adapted over the years. My mother made an Italian sausage stew based on a recipe her friend passed to her; whoever wandered in on Christmas Eve had a generous serving on a crusty Italian roll. I’ve made it since the early 90s, both by my mother’s guidelines and with vegan variations, depending on who’s wandering in.

As a child I learned to bake all kinds of Christmas cookies from my mother. We’d make nearly a dozen varieties of press cookies, stamped cookies, sugar cookies, etc., then divide them into various containers to share with our neighbors, family and friends.

I’ve continued the tradition of cookie & sweets baking/sharing over the years. As a young adult with amazing roommates I was given the recipe for Winter’s Best Gingersnaps. Ginger cookies, whether snaps (crunchy) or wafers (chewy) were a marker for fall, and my birthday, right up to Christmas, although my mother, grandmother & I didn’t bake them.

I’ve made these cookies in the fall, for Christmas cookie exchanges, and deep winter warm-me-ups. They aren’t just for Christmas. Enjoy!

Winter’s Best Gingersnaps

¾ cup butter

¾ cup shortening (I use all butter)

2-¼ cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup molasses

4 cups unbleached wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons cloves

2 teaspoons ginger

Sift all dry ingredients together. Work butter (& shortening, if using) until creamy, then gradually work in 2 cups of sugar until mixture is light. Now beat in eggs and molasses very thoroughly. Gradually added sifted dry ingredients, beating well after each addition. Beat hard, and don’t be alarmed if the batter is soft. Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375*. Roll pieces of dough into 1″ balls, dip into remaining sugar (if desired). Place on greased baking sheet about 3″ apart and back 12-15 minutes. Remove cookies from oven, let stand 1 minute. Remove and cool on rack.

So, a cookie good for dunking in milk or coffee, and not as sweet as you might think. I hope you enjoy making and eating them as much as I do.

Now, what’s next for baking? Maybe bring back homemade bread. Fodder for another post.

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Our son, cancer-free, came home for Thanksgiving, with goodies. Without his GF, who has shared Thanksgiving with us for the last 3 years. I admit that it was strange, and slightly awkward, as he offered nothing about their breakup, and that was what we wanted to discuss. We did not. I was disappointed about that, but we don’t pry. Our adult children know we are here for them, and when they want to share, we listen without judgment. We FaceTimed with our daughter and her husband, and it was good, but nothing about our son and his current status.

We stayed up late (too late) and woke early. No talk of the break-up or how he’s managing that. Chris and I served hypotheses but without Colin’s input, it’s all speculation. So we remain as clueless now as we were a week ago.

Coming from a family who was all about being in everyone’s business, this was difficult for me to respect our son’s boundaries, yet I — we — did. I’m grateful to have had time with our son, and for the technology that allows real-time conversing with family far away. And yet I’m left wanting.

I know we may never know the gory details. We may be better off. And that we can offer a safe place to land for our adult children is a comfort. I did not feel that my parents’ home was a safe place; indeed, it was often one of ridicule for not being more than their expectations for their children. And yet when I was with my parents I was doing the best I could do at the time. I’m grateful that we recognize that, and can let our family be who they are, without judging them. We’ve come a long way from our respective families. I hope we can continue to forge a path and still find places to connect and share.


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Quick Update

I know it’s been a weird year — why aren’t those homonyms spelled similarly, I wonder — and it’s taken on more weirdness recently.  And weirdly, it’s just little stuff, nothing major. I appreciate the lack of drama and resent that these niggling issues require as much attention as they do.

Our son will be joining us for Thanksgiving, and it will be the first time in 6 years that we’ve hosted. So far it’s just the 3 of us. We’ve enjoyed the years he & his roommates, GF and others have hosted and contributed. This is the year to pull back and lean on family. It’s been challenging for all of us, on many different levels. We’ll miss our daughter and SIL and will FaceTime with them. And we’re grateful for what we have, and that’s enough.

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Unexpected Feelings

So some men in powerful positions were recently accused of sexual harassment/bad behavior. As a woman who has experienced that, I’m all over those who are going forward. Men don’t get that women will own our power and their attempt to take it from us without consequences. The men that harrassed me won’t face consequences , aside from what Karma delivers them, and I  hope they rot in hell, or worse. Those experiences were the worst. I can’t change the past but I can move forward, which I did, but the feelings of violation still bubbled up, at unusual times and unbidden.

I walked a mile tonight in a t-shirt and shorts, and felt no cold, in 55* nighttime temps. I felt nothing as far as weather was concerned. My focus was on not letting my sexual predators get away with their deeds. What they did was not my fault. What happened to other women was not their fault. You guys who took advantage of a situation, or worse, it’s on you. Rot in hell, motherfuckers.

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