A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Archive for December, 2011

Another Year Bites the Dust

The year 2011 has been full of ups and downs. My sister got married to a great guy, connecting our family with a phenomenal family. That was most definitely an up. My mom died on December 17th, leaving a big void. That was most definitely a down. I left my weekend job in June (up), but the resulting loss of income has strained my finances to the breaking point (down). I’m looking forward with anticipation to 2012. Let’s see what the Universe has in store for us this time around!

In the interest of self-betterment, I have developed a list of goals for 2012. The word “resolution” grates on my nerves, as it suggests that there was something wrong with me to begin with. Since we all are constantly learning and changing, I don’t think it’s the word to use. So here is my list of goals for 2012.

1. Spend More Time with Family and Friends

This sort of speaks for itself. 2011 hammered home the fact that family and friends are of paramount importance to me. To that end, I would like to spend more face-to-face time with the important people in my life. Not Facebook time, not texting time, real time. I would like to visit with my sister at least once a month. I would like to visit my Dad twice this year. I would like to take my daughter out for dinner once a month. I would like to have a date with my husband every month. It could be as simple as curling up on the couch, watching a movie while munching on popcorn. But we have to do SOMETHING together.

I am also in the early stages of planning a road trip this summer to visit family and friends around the country. From elementary and high school friends scattered around the country, to my Dad in New Mexico and cousins in Oklahoma, North Carolina and Ohio, I want to see them all. It will be great fun to sit down and share a meal and lively conversation. There are a lot of really interesting people in my life and they add a vibrancy that I appreciate. Life is short. What am I waiting for?

2. Create a Reasonable Budget

Money is always an issue for me. Working as a teacher’s aide, I bring home about $100 a week after taxes. That’s not a whole lot of disposable income. My husband contributes to our household account once a month, but it always seems like the money is all gone a good week before the month ends. I am going to sit down today and figure out a way to economize on groceries, which is a HUGE chunk of our monthly expenses. I know it’s all in the planning, so I’ll create weekly menus. I used to do that. Then I got all cocky and started buying $3.99 half pints of fresh raspberries. I also need to remember the phone bills, the Netflix account (which I’ve already cancelled half of), birthday presents, etc. There’s a way to do this; I just have to write it all down and stick to it.

3. Get in Better Shape

On 11/11/11, I began a weight loss journey that has me feeling GREAT. I started doing a workout from Team BeachBody, and eating healthful meals. There’s also a nutritional shake that I am drinking, although I’ve had to cancel autodelivery of that, due to finances (see #2). I’ll use my shake supply until I run out. So far, I’ve lost 12 pounds and nearly 12 inches, which is GREAT!

The challenge is now to continue on the journey while staying within a reasonable budget. I have two workout DVDs, so I’m set on exercise. I also have a yoga workout series on VHS that I use. I can always strap on my beat up old sneakers and go for a walk or stack wood or rake leaves. Lots of opportunities to stay active, which was the missing component in my life. The food part – no problem. Plus, my good friend Jolie has motivated me to stay the course. Her perseverance and enthusiasm are inspiring.

#4. Stay Ahead of the Dust

Ugh. Cleaning. I hate it. Always have. There’s something so incredibly distasteful about cleaning. The end product is WONDERFUL. I love being able to see through the windows and walk around the house in my bare feet without stepping on grit that came from unknown locations. I’ve long maintained that gravity is stronger in our house than almost anywhere on the planet. Everything winds up on the floor. Dirt, dust, pencils, papers, rubber bands, plastic bags, clothing, plant matter all mysteriously leap to their doom in this house. I bet there’s some convergence of cosmic energy right below our foundation that causes this phenomenon.

Whatever the cause, I vow to stay abreast of cleaning. That means a schedule must be created. Mondays will be floor day, Tuesdays –  laundry, Wednesdays – bathrooms, etc. I think that’s really the only way to get it done, since maid service is not in the budget.

#5. Live an Adventurous Life

I love adventure. From traveling to new places, to learning new skills and trying new foods, I love it. This year I would like to dip my toes back into adventure. My road trip – perhaps solo – will be one. Rick has an art show in Florence, Italy in March. I might go with him. That’s another. I want to develop a new income stream. Many people have said I should cater parties. That’s a possibility – I was a food vendor at one event this past year and loved the experience. That would be another adventure. I would love to sit in on a session of Congress when I’m in Washington, DC. I would like to learn to scuba dive. I want to eat poutine and fois gras in Montreal. Teach myself to make tofu and corn my own beef. Go on a kayak trip in the Adirondacks. Climb a mountain – a real one. Go zip-lining somewhere. Start writing a book. Attend sacred ceremonies in religions I have only a nodding familiarity with (Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, etc.). There’s so much to do and learn and experience. It’s well past time to get moving.

So, those are my five big goals for 2012. There are other, smaller goals (like trying one new recipe a week, going through the bookshelves and weeding out all those books I “had” to have, etc.), but if next year ends and I’ve accomplished these five things, it will have been a smashing success.

I wish you all a wonderfully healthy and happy 2012. Blessings and light for the new year. So mote it be.

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A Life Well Lived

Yesterday, my mother died. She had been ill for years with peritoneal cancer, a cancer which invaded her abdomen and decided it liked it there far too much to leave. Eventually, my parents and the doctors who cared for her decided that enough was enough. Four years of chemo was enough for her tiny, 4’11” body to handle. The cancer had won, modern medicine had lost, and at 2:45 pm Eastern Time, she breathed her last.

I cried when Dad first called to tell me she was gone. The finality of knowing she was gone hurt. It was no surprise to any of us, however. We knew in late summer that she was stopping chemo and would begin her downward slide, so I had made my peace with the inevitability of her absence. I began to think about her life – about the 28,370 days she spent on this earth.

I thought about her strength and her courage. She had an unwavering devotion to her family, giving up her own career aspirations for us. She was married to my Dad for 52 years and took care of him as a good child of the 50s did. I sometimes think she would rather have been a free child of the 60s, as she sometimes chafed at not being able to follow her dreams. But she felt duty-bound to make her marriage work and raise good girls. I think, for the most part, she was successful at both (although I do admit to being a wild child when I got out of the house and went to college). She was devastated when our sister Maureen died at age 13, but she shielded us from her pain and taught us to move forward, lovingly remembering those who have crossed before us.

She had a mind like a steel trap. What went in never left. She was a champion at trivia games and could remember recipes for years. She was telling me how to make a quiche for Dad to put in the freezer just a few days before her death. She was horrified that I might use milk instead of cream! She also had a wicked sense of humor. I loved hearing her laugh – she had one of those slightly manic belly laughs that make you laugh along. I still remember drawing a picture on a steak fry in ketchup at a restaurant when I was in high school. I made a really awful pun about it (I drew a roof and one of her closest friends was Ruth) and she guffawed until her eyes teared up. She was not ashamed that people stared – she was having fun!

Mom was also a brilliant woman. She was her high school valedictorian, winning the Latin prize. There was nothing she couldn’t understand or master intellectually. I used to think that was one of the reasons that my Dad was so in love with her – she was flat out smarter than him and it was a challenge for him to keep up with her. Lord knows Dad loves a challenge!

She was also a culinary adventurer, and I know that my sister and I inherited that trait. She and my Dad would have cocktail parties in the 70s on a fairly regular basis. She would make exotic appetizers and drinks, clipping out recipes from newspapers and magazines that sounded interesting. I remember tuna turnovers, ham rissoles, cocktail hash (the REAL Chex party mix), rumaki, fondues, sweet pastries. I remember her friends and their crazy big hair and plaid leisure suits. I remember sneaking upstairs to snatch food off the tables and running as fast as possible back to the basement with sweet and savory booty. Sometimes her recipes were horrible, but, growing up, each one of us kids was allowed to choose a food that we didn’t have to eat when it was presented at table.

During a visit to her home a few weeks ago, I came across one of her metal recipe boxes. In it were clipped recipes, some of which I know she never made. I suspect she would need another lifetime to get through all the recipes she saved. It would be nice to have one of those boxes to remember her by.

It is impossible to adequately encapsulate my mother into one post. She was too expansive a spirit to be spoken of only once. The dynamic energy that was Mom is gone now from the earth, and there’s a hole. She’s away whirling somewhere else in the universe, probably feeding people, repairing clothing, and painting pictures that were stored in her imagination for 60 years. I like to think that she’ll come visit us every so often. She’s got some catching up to do with Maureen first. It’s been 35 years since they’ve seen each other, so I imagine they’re having a cup of coffee right about now.

A lovely woman, a life well lived. I’ll miss you, Mom – you were the best Mom a girl could have had. Thank you.

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