It’s been a while since I’ve published a blog post and even though I say “published” I may as well say attempted too. In the time of Coronavirus I may have run out of things to say. If like me, your days have turned into a perpetual Groundhog Day, you know what I’m talking about. What is there to say about the waking up, brushing teeth and doing eight other things, the same ones you did yesterday. Actually, it’s not as bad as I make it seem and one bright spot in my last month was that my dad was visiting me. He has slowed down quite a bit since turning eighty last December but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of help we would need to get around our house. He fell on his first day here and it was then I realized how fragile he’d become. But with a cane and someone’s crook of an elbow, it was manageable.
The idea of seeing a medium has been bouncing around in the back of my mind for years. Nearly thirty three years since I lost my brother, Jeff, to suicide. There was no note. I was gutted. Why had this happened? I needed answers. John Edwards was a fairly new phenomenon back then and he had been a guest speaker at my college at the time. I don’t remember what he said that night, but I knew there could be an answer to my questions by visiting him. But I didn’t persue it.
There were a couple of local psychics in my hometown and one reached out to a family member a while after my brother died. She said my brother had visited her on the night he died and he wanted her to tell my mother he was OK. He mentioned very specific jewelry in her posession that no one else would know about. I imagine she was terrified to bring this information to my mother knowing we were a devout Catholic family who didn’t go in for other wordly nonsense.
It will all be over in twenty four hours. The build up and planning and anticipating will be over and we can rest easy into another blessed Christmas morning. But before then, there will be lots and lots of work. A labor of love. Traditions and rituals to observe. We’ve decorated, shopped and watched all the Christmas movies. We’ve witnessed the build up of advent and the journey to Christ’s birth. It has been a particularly spiritual journey for me this year as I attended weekday mass on many occasions during the month, and isn’t that what the season is about.
It’s been just over a week since we had to say goodbye to our beloved golden retriever, Murphy. He’s been part of the family for 11 years (almost to the date), having arrived just a couple of weeks before my son Liam’s second birthday. An (active!) toddler, an exuberant puppy, a full time job and a busy life.
There was puppy training, potty training, play groups and doggy daycare to squeeze into an already packed life. Then there was everything I’d read about dog food and decided I better make my own which was no small task. I worried over teething and sleep schedules. Again. For isn’t a puppy so much like a baby in many ways.
But here we are, a blink of an eye and it’s eleven years later. A teenager and an elderly dog whose time has come up much too soon. How do you say goodbye to an integral part of your family? At 100 pounds and no longer mobile, I called a vet who makes house calls. It was time.
It was a peaceful and gentle process. The vet as compassionate a man as I have ever met. He has called, emailed and sent us a sympathy card, making sure that we are all doing ok. Even checking on our cat Stella who is no spring chicken herself.
But a pet death is not like any other. A close bond forms over the years with the primary family members. Murphy loved people, giving his tail an enthusiastic shake at the mere approach of anyone new, and people loved him too. No one knew him like we did though, and the grief is like a tight knot holding us together. The fact that he’s no longer holding his post by our entrance door, a constant source of pain, a phantom pain, that reminds us each time we come home of his absence.
It’s a time of grief, to be felt for as long as necessary until it dissipates little by little as time goes by. Keeping the memories close, sharing our heartache, restitching our sense of family.
This is a blog from my drafts from last fall. Today I am making my mom’s top secret applesauce for the first time this season so it seemed appropriate to resurrect it here.
My mother never used a cookbook. This was especially disconcerting to me as I left home and needed her stock of recipes to carry me into adulthood. Thank goodness for the phone as she would only be a call away when I needed her guidance about how much sour cream to put in the beef stroganoff (a couple large spoonfuls) or what was the secret ingredient to her applesauce (red hots).
Fortunately by the time she passed away in 2016, I had a pretty good handle on her recipe collection and had even written a few of them down so I don’t forget the ones I grew up on. There are lots of dashes of this and that here and there. A bunch of “add to taste”. Some of these have moved into my own family’s favorites (cue the beef stroganoff and beef stew) although Liam has put a bit of a wrench in things by forgoing meat in his diet the past few months.
From the beginning of fall until Christmas, you could always find my mom in the kitchen making her special applesauce (either on the stove or in the slow cooker) and this was one of Liam’s favorites. I have tried to reproduce her simple recipe on many occasions but it seems to be missing one thing: Grandma’s love.
I recently became the proud owner of an Instant Pot and it had been about a year since I attempted the secret sauce made famous by mom. I bought the apples but was unsure how I could obtain the red hots which don’t seem to be a staple of the candy aisle any more. Luckily I discovered Walmart carries them and sent my husband on a mission to pick up a box so I could give the Instant Pot applesauce a try.
The final product was right on for color and texture but Liam proclaimed it was a little too spicy so I’ll have to be a little less heavy handed with the red hots next time.
Mom’s Applesauce (in the Instant Pot)
5 lbs of apples, peeled and sliced
1 + 1/4 cup of water
Several red hots (to taste)
Sugar (to taste – I added about 4 packets of stevia)
Add the first three items to the Instant Pot and select Manual, High Pressure for 10 minutes. Release the pressure before opening.
Add sugar to your taste and enjoy!
I love our kitchen. If you were following my blog at all last summer, you might recall we were just finishing up our renovations a year ago. We had work done in a few rooms that started right around Memorial Day and it wasn’t until Labor Day weekend that our house became our own again. It was fifteen years in the making and worth every bit of inconvenience and struggle though. Continue reading “Fall-ing back in love with my kitchen”
I feel like my writing has been all over the place these last couple of weeks. That is just the way life is, at least for me. I don’t have anything anchoring me down other than life as a wife and mom so my days are a bit at my whim, especially since Liam has been away at camp this week. There’s the ever-present tidying. Keeping an eye on Murphy who seems to be doing better – I honestly thought we were going to lose him this week. Trying to tweak my vision board which led me to Barnes and Noble yesterday, poring over the amazing variety of magazines they offer. I am so grateful I have time for things like this.
Born on September 11, 2008, Murphy came into our lives eight weeks later, a small bundle of golden fur. It was just a few weeks before my son Liam was turning two and winter would soon be upon us. I couldn’t think of a worse time to bring a puppy into our household but my husband was certain every boy needs a dog. He surprised us on a crisp fall day by dropping by a farm to take a look at a new litter of Golden Retrievers and my heart was won over.
Over the weekend I was honored to partake in two celebrations: one of a new life and one of a death. Our nephew and his girlfriend (who I hadn’t met yet) are having a baby and this past weekend was a perfect time for everyone to get together to celebrate the new baby girl to come. I used to have all sorts of anxiety over attending showers (too long, too boring, too many crazy games!) but several years ago I had a mind shift about them and saw them for what they were: an important moment in a person’s life as we honor a transition to a beautiful new life stage. Whenever I am invited now, I think of it as an honor bestowed.
It’s also an opportunity to reconnect with people we haven’t seen in a while. To put away our phones and our Facebook timelines to make new (in real life) memories. There are always new people to meet too and the nephew’s girlfriend (and her parents) are wonderful and a balm to the family they are joining with. My nephew lost his twin brother in 2016, to addiction, and it has been a heartbreaking journey for them. To witness this happiness in their lives is a joy. And yes, there were games, and I came away with a prize or two.
Life accelerated on me in the past couple of months. How is tomorrow June 1st with only one week of school left?! There have been concerts, field trips, a book sale/mini-concert, grandparents day, a special mass and countless out of school activities. As I write, my son is at Taekwondo, working on his hours toward membership on their coveted leadership team. When he’s done we’ll pop home for a quick change before heading to the end-of-the-year sports banquet. How do people do this with multiple kids? I am in awe of them!
Did I mention we’re also in the final run-up to having braces installed? We had both an orthodontist and dentist appointment in this very short week. I don’t even pretend my time is my own anymore. But while we’re running around, I CAN carve out time while I’m waiting. Usually I will read or watch YouTube videos but I could spend some of that time writing (and I’m not talking to-do lists). I need to put my writing time back on the schedule and I’ll start today.
Other than operating as chief transportation officer of our household , I have been doing a few different things. I’m still unemployed so I’m looking for a job and I joined a job club that is basically a support system for and by the unemployed. It’s been interesting to say the least. I have no clue what I’m going to do next professionally but I’m hoping to figure that out over the next few months.
Being that I am unemployed and hope to spend some quality time with my twelve year old this summer, we have a few trips planned starting with a visit to our home in Florida after school ends next week. This is what’s keeping me going right now. For two weeks there will be absolutely no orthodontist appointments, Taekwondo classes, lacrosse games or homework to be done. Hello pool, shuffleboard, reading and relaxing.
In early July we’re going to visit Williamsburg, VA and this will be the first time just he and I will be on such a long road trip (about 8 hours one way). My husband bid on it at a charity auction but cannot join us because we have a vacation in Delaware the following week. This is going to take a bit of organization due to all that we need to bring to Delaware but I’m sure it will be worth it (and fun). I’m trying to compile a list of podcasts or audiobooks we can listen to on the drive.
Our annual beach vacation in Delaware is always something to look forward to and we’ll meet my husband there along with a couple we always vacation with. That is a laid back week where sitting beachside with a book is the top priority.
But the very best getaway is saved for last because that is when I go to Greece with my longtime friend to a yoga retreat on one of the islands. And THAT is what’s keeping me motivated. To prepare, I’ve embarked on a health/nutrition/fitness program, but I’ll save that for next time.
What are your plans for the summer? I hope you make some time for a little (or a lot) of R&R.