Tuesday, December 24, 2013
But I utterly failed to blog about any of that.
I would like to be a better blogger, a more consistent writer, and most of all, I would like to find a way to channel all of the things that interest me into those hobbies. At least some of the things.
It is Christmas Eve, and we stare down the new year with hope and trepidation and resignation all sort of wrapped up together. I would like to write. Will I have the stamina to stick to my plans and reach my goal?
Do I have one?
One thing at a time.
Monday, September 30, 2013
Fall cleaning has been underway for a few weeks at our house, as we tackle things like outgrown toddler clothes and the never-read stacks of books on our shelves. One chore I tackled was shaking out my cookbook collection, which isn't actually very big but which does tend to collect dust more than provide inspiration at dinnertime.
I want to put those cookbooks I am keeping to better use, and what better way than to cook and blog about it?
Starting next Sunday and continuing on Sundays until I tire of this or lose the habit , I am going to pick a meal we have not tried from one of my cookbooks, and post about it here. I will take pictures when possible and share a link to the cookbook in question when available.
As I said, my collection is small, but it is fairly diverse. I have some inherited church cookbooks dating to the 1970s, some purchased ones with recipes going back 100 years, a Julia Child kitchen basics book, Paula Deen, Ree Drummond, Rachael Ray. I have a handful of ethnic cookbooks and some other things.
My goals here are to try new things, shake the dust off my collection, and bring something to this blog I have not known what to do with. This won't be strictly a cooking blog, of course, but at least there will be regular content!
I have started going through recipes and hope to decide for sure what I will start with this week.
Yay for new projects!
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
My daughter's favorite word these days is "airplane." She hasn't ever seen a real airplane, not up close, just had them pointed out to her from our grounded vantage point. She's not yet known a day when there are no planes in the sky. They are a part of life, for her. It was that way for us, too, back in 2001. Never had known a day without a plane in the sky, though just a century earlier such things were science fiction.
After 9/11, planes were grounded. There was a legitimate fear that more would be used as weapons of mass destruction, that they would be taken over by flight school students here on expired visas and used to make a political and religious statement through bloodshed.
My 9/11 memories are stark. I can close my eyes and smell the lounge where I was studying, taste the orange juice I had for breakfast, hear Peter Jennings' gasps and sighs and sheer frustration and fear. I feel the adrenaline that didn't subside for weeks after, the cramps in my calves from running up and down stairs in the campus language building to get confirmation about classes cancelling. The sweat running down the back of my neck while I ran around looking for my friend Michael, with whom I'd ridden to school that morning. We got Chick-Fil-A for lunch on our way back to my house when classes were cancelled. It tasted like sawdust.
In 2002, on the anniversary, I wrote about my impressions, a year out. "And there has been a vague sense of this same silence ever since. Helicopters, military planes - nothing is the same. An interrupted television show strikes a chord of fear - what now? What next?"
Nothing has really changed.
What now. What next.
Will the planes be flying tomorrow?
I have always loved flying. In tiny Cessnas, in huge commercial jets. I love the take-off and looking out over open land. It doesn't come close to my love of a cross-country road trip, but flying is a special experience. You feel the future, in the sky. You sense all the ways you are breaking the rules.
It is horrifying to know, even that beauty was twisted and used for evil.
I first noticed the silent skies on the ride home from the university, some four hours after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
The empty skies.
I remember thinking how eerie it was, how unnatural. We lived right in a major flight path for DFW Airport, planes flew over our house every fifteen minutes or so.
Unnatural. Except there is nothing natural about human flight. It's a manipulation of physics, an application of human knowledge, but it is not natural.
My daughter spread her arms out in the car this morning as we drove down the highway. "Wheee!" she said. "Airplane!"
May she never know the horror of a silent, empty sky.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
That very phrase strikes an odd note with me. I feel like the concentrated publicity and public outreach that is supposed to take place during an "awareness" month should be a year-round occurrence I mean, this is a disease that invariably kills - there is no cure. It has no discernible pattern, except that we know it sometimes runs in families, that there may be a genetic marker, but that it also occurs randomly, it hits veterans at a greater rate than any other population segment. You can live for decades with it - see Stephen Hawking - or just a couple of years past diagnosis - see Lou Gehrig.
So here's my pitch. You probably don't personally know anyone with ALS. Chances are, you probably won't in the future. But you know me, because you're reading this blog, and my mother and my grandmother were both ALS patients. So your connection to ALS is really just two degrees.
|Christmas 2009 - Me with Mom in her hospital room. This was thankfully the only Christmas she spent in the hospital.|
Take a minute and get educated.
I don't expect everyone who learns about ALS to donate money to the cause of finding a cure. This is one of my causes because it hit home, not because of a celebrity or even because of a neighbor or friend-of-a-friend. Certainly not because I read some blog posts about it. But, consider this, if you've got $10 to spare. As the disease progresses, ALS patients require full-time care. Many need wheelchairs early on, they need medical equipment like oxygen masks and tanks, feeding tubes, catheters, all the attendant supplies. Some need caregivers at home, others need to be in homes. Insurance does a lot, but it doesn't do nearly enough, and not every ALS patient has the resources of the VA like my mother did. The ALS Association is mostly focused on research, but if you can find a way to help them or, even better, caregivers and patients directly, you're doing a lot.
I'm not the hopeful type, when we're talking about ALS. It is really difficult to fathom a cure, when we have so few effective treatments. But comfort, having a support group, responsible end-of-life care, these are things I think we can give ALS patients.
And pass on the word.
Monday, April 29, 2013
I went to my mother’s funeral in a maternity dress, because I was five months pregnant.
I wasn’t planning on getting pregnant. My mother was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, in the fall of 2008. I was anxious to avoid the emotional upheaval of pregnancy on top of the horror of my mother’s disease. It was a horror story from my childhood, in a way. Mom had been two months pregnant with me when her own mother died, and she never got to tell her. She told me the story over the years with tears in her eyes, bitterness in her voice. On some level, I promised, it wouldn’t happen to me.
Pregnancy and motherhood are really things that all the talks and reading in the world can’t prepare you for. But age-old motherly wisdom is supposed to be helpful. I wouldn’t really know. We never talked about it, and then when it happened, my mother couldn’t talk at all.
In the spring of 2011, working long hours and not paying close attention to birth control, I got pregnant. By this time, my mother was bedridden and could no longer smile or laugh. The second I knew for sure, I called to tell her, my dad holding the phone up to her ear. He told me she looked at him and he could tell she heard me, her eyes said everything.
My mother-in-law took me shopping for maternity clothes. We looked around at the nicer dresses, ones that I could later wear while breastfeeding. She told me to pick out something pretty, for going out to dinner. I picked something black, thinking I might need it for a funeral.
It is easy to spend a lot of time worrying about what can go wrong when you’re pregnant, especially when you carry the burden of genetic disorders. We have a history in our family of spina bifida, and I wanted, needed to talk to my mother about her experience when my brother was born with it – I wanted reassurance, I wanted to hear her refute the statistics and tell me my baby would be fine. When I asked, she blinked, the last thing she could do, and her gaze shifted away.
So I asked for every test I could get, not wanting to be caught off-guard. And everything was fine – I was tired, and that was all. My doctor grinned and told me, get more sleep. You’ll need it, he said.
It was difficult to accept all of this. It was strange, to know nothing was going wrong, when it seemed everyone I knew had a horror story – up to and including my own mother. And I was cursing the timing of it all. I was sad and angry, and had a hard time with joy in those first few months. It made me a terrible friend, and a hard person to get along with.
The call from my dad came late on a Friday afternoon. It was unbearably hot outside, the way Texas summers always are. The first time I felt nauseous while I was pregnant was in the wake of that phone call.
During her wake, I spent a lot of time answering questions about my tiny baby bump. There at the front of the room at the funeral home was Mom, and I stood in the back near the door to say hello to people. I’m so sorry to hear about Lillian, they’d say. When are you due, in the next breath. My eyes filled and I nodded and answered the questions and screamed inside that this fate should befall first Mom, then me.
My darling girl kicked and squirmed as if to joyously respond to the proceedings, saying life goes on, telling me she would be there soon to cheer me up. In January, she arrived on time and healthy, and brought with her laughter and joy that was hard to fathom mere months earlier.
Mom and I were not very close, in those last few years, and every day I wish I could talk to her about this strange new world that she traversed before me. Motherhood took me mere months after she was released from it, and that transition has been poignant.
Unwittingly, Mom did leave me with one final lesson in those hard, bright August days. Motherhood is full of the unexpected; that is practically the textbook definition. And for every hard thing we must do, there is a smiling, kicking, giggling prize to balance it out.