Molly and Me

Kurtis, our most exceptional and much appreciated mail carrier, delivered National Geographic Magazine and Molly headed for the big chair and a marathon reading session.   How many grandmothers get to enjoy the company of a 17-year-old during the week of  spring break?   Molly is very bright, articulate and funny.  The week is passing quickly

“You know, Grandma, I love reading National Geographic but after I read it I think the world might be about to end.  We have messed up so many things.”

Our conversation took the path of possibilities, but one Mollyism often repeated was that her generation would not/could not fix things because they were self-centered to the exclusion of caring about any future that did not include immediate self needs.   Molly talked about the behaviors in the new teen favorite, Glee, and the predominate attitudes at her high school.

While I burned the dinner rice, we talked about the need for purpose with passion…of the willingness to do much more than worry about conditions and hope that a miracle saves the earth.

While the broccoli cheese sauce scorched, we talked about past generations that cared–but not enough.

While the garlic chicken smoked the house, we talked about the power of money to sway beliefs and create false needs through advertising and entertainment.

While I arranged the unscathed parts of the meal onto a really fancy plate designed to disguise, we talked about the need for Molly to have a subscription to National Geographic.  The week is passing far too quickly.



Lent, In Retrospect (ccr)

Rerun for Ash Wednesday and more Catholic core memories:

Our family lived in the shadow of the steeple making it easy to pad the Spiritual Bouquets.   A Spiritual Bouquets was a lovely custom gone astray in the hands of kids with empty pockets.

The idea was to pray for someone, listing the number of rosaries, communions, Masses, visits to the church.  At the end of Lent, the tally was carefully lettered on  a construction paper card and given to parents as an Easter gift.  Mom and Dad gave us Easter Baskets and we gave them a bit of a fraud, but with a sincere intention to impress.

At one point, we decided that a ‘visit to the church’ could be handled with dispatch.  Go in,  quick genuflection, think “For Mom and Dad”,  repeat genuflection, go outside, count, repeat the process .  If no basketball game was tempting us astray, we could pad the score to 50 in less than 10 minutes.

Rosaries generally require reciting the full prayer on each bead, but simply naming the prayer seemed much faster.  Besides,  we figured God already knew the whole thing and was probably getting bored with repetition.

Mass and Communion were never abbreviated.  These are the core of our tradition and sacred to young hearts and minds.  Hands folded, eyes downcast and a prayerful demeanor were the rules.  Because we attended Mass every day, our Spiritual Bouquets did have meaning in belief and ritual.

Mom always gave up chocolate for Lent admitting her plan  to observe the custom of self-sacrifice and loose 10 pounds.   Whiting fish, peanut butter, cracker soup and mac cheese were staples for those 40 days.

Fun things were on hold.  No movies, no slumber parties, no new anything— until we dressed for Easter Mass and tried out new  hats, white gloves and Sunday shoes.

We were known to cry at the Stations of The Cross.  Silence,  part of the three hours on Good Friday, was the time we used to contemplate our sins for which Jesus died.  Sad hours, especially for little kids incapable of understanding the whole sin concept yet shouldering the burden of original guilt.

Holy Saturday was my special secret, bringing a memory that is both delicious and for which I have a measure of shame.  Well, a tiny measure of shame.

Mom gave me money and sent me to Minnesota Avenue to select the candy for the Easter baskets.  “Always remember to get multiples of five”, she said never wanting a basket  short-changed.    I bought six of my special favorites.

Then home to Mom’s big closet where I set up the baskets, filled them with that messy green paper grass and methodically gave each kid one of every threat.  And that sixth treat?    I ate my way through the entire process, relishing what I had not tasted for 39 days.   Delicious sin.

As a community, we believed and we shared the practices with most of our neighbors, never questioning the efficacy of imposed sacrifice and prayer.  We prayed more and maybe we even believed more.

That shadow of the steeple covered us with a blanket of shared tradition, ritual and belief.  It was a very good time.

A Man I Know

A Man I Know celebrated his birthday in a most unusual manner.

For A Man I Know, Wednesdays are usually spent driving 2 hours to help a particular senior citizen with what ever happens to be on the honey-do list that week.  Coffee and bagels at Einstein Brothers are the extent of the thanks A Man I Know will accept before doing the return 2 hours to his home.

This Wednesday was different, beautifully different.

The economy continues to be difficult and one of A Man’s friends was in the middle of the worst of times, down to wondering if there would be food for tomorrow.

On his birthday, A Man I Know gave rather than receive.   He filled a shopping cart with food, basic household essentials, and even a few special treats to ease the difficult time for his friend.  The drive to deliver was long, especially after spending the first of the day on the highway while knowing that the trip home was still to come.

I love A Man I Know, having held him for the first time 44 years ago when he started his life in Kansas City, Kansas….my privilege then and my privilege now.  Happy Everything, A Man I Know.


Ready, Set, Ramble…a non-edited Rant.  Be forewarned.

Remember when First Lady Michelle Obama announced her focus project of addressing obesity in children?  Scoffers pointed out the mountain of so-called better causes such as Laura Bush’s literacy campaigns.   A portion of the scoff looked at eating habits very differently than reading habits, as if changing from salt/sugar laced food to healthy choices was too ingrained, too personal, too lazy.

Not so.  Eating habits are much harder to change than are reading habits.  Both changes are vital to raising strong, intelligent and productive members of our society.  Junk food fits the hands of instant gratification, mountains of wasted food,  and a throw away mind-set.

On Sunday, my daughter and I ate at a franchise deli.  During the meal, it was so easy to spot flagrant cheating, paying for a little and taking much more,  feeding two or more when only one person paid,  overheard justification of the cheating by noting the percentage of mark-up on soft drinks.  These scene might hold a modicum of justification if:   If the couples/families had little money, if true hunger prompted the overage, if outrage at “the man” for the price of cola manifested  in ways that did not include stealing that soft drink.

Worse and completely unjustified was the horrible waste of food in a world where hunger isn’t simply something experienced 30 minutes before pulling into the quick fix drive up.

Next to our table, three tables  joined to accommodate what looked like several  generations enjoying Sunday together.  (Yes, I admit to listening and watching.  Yes, I admit to be obsessed with what we waste.)   Much of each of those 12 meals was left on the plate with no place to go except the garbage.  Meat, vegetables, grains left in favor of  ice cream from the machine.  Injury compounded by the truth that anything left on the buffet would also have to be pitched, unable to be passed onto food kitchens.

A tangle.  A mess.  A strangeness we own as one of our misappropriated ‘rights’.   Our nation is overweight.  Our children are overweight.

Statistics show that each of us wastes about 197 pounds of food a year.  Multiply— and we could find the means to erase hunger from the planet.  Global thinking and easy to dismiss as impossible.

Fine.  Think mini.  Think today.  Decide that today will be a personal day of no food waste.  Try it.  Even if all you can do is compost, at least give it a try.   Don’t let me waste this rant.

A Pot for the Chicken

Gourmet, I am not, but adequate-plus works for me.  Greek Wedding Bread is terrific as are my sticky buns.  Just ask Molly.  Even though I don’t eat the results, I love to bake beautiful desserts.

Salads, soups, chili, casseroles, breads and desserts get the plus.

Brisket and oven roasted meats are difficult to mess up, but I can turn a beautiful steak or a fine pork chop to crispy critters in the time it takes to say “Turn off the smoke detector!”

A church sale had piles of clay pots called Romertopf. The  number of these discards should have been my clue, but the $2.00 price was my undoing. I hurried home with the pot, stopping to buy a plump chicken, some celery and onions.

Thinking like Julia, I planned a nice rice dish, a salad and a huge apple pie to top off my Romertopf dinner. Staying with Julia’s methods, I slathered on the butter after washing and stuffing that bird. Even at this point, the smell was terrific, though the fit of bird to pan was a bit tight.

Soaked pot (cold water for 15 minutes), cold oven, and 450 temp reached gradually. Two hours later, the chicken was golden though the pot had little juice. Ummm…odd, but maybe the meat is all tender and moist with that butter bath.

It was. Dinner was fantastic.  After the dishes drying and putting away the dishes, it was time to make the brownies for tomorrow’s event.   Back to the oven controls, whipped up the batter while the oven came to temp, but it didn’t. It came to fire–smoke and fire, actually, while those not-so-vanishing juices blackened the oven floor.

Forty-five minutes later, I had enough of the mess cleaned to turn on the self-clean cycle and finish the job. Rubber gloves blackened and sticky, yucky bucket of water, kitchen smelling like burned bird and a batch of brownies waiting for a turn.

Anyone for ice cream with that second piece of pie?

Successful Dieting; Stop Eating What Is Eating You

Walking at the park and shamelessly eavesdropping whenever the conversation is close, snippets because the see-saw of passing keeps contact to a minimum. Couples sharing a story and parents laughing with the kids are my favorites.  I listen and we smile when they look my way.

Today was different.
A young mother needed something…some comfort, some pain relief. And it was pretty obvious that food was her pill of choice. Dad and kids walked together, but several steps behind mom as she struggled to carry her weight. They seemed to be giving her space. When Dad and the kids laughed, Mom angrily shouted for them to keep up. One of the girls asked if they could stop on the bridge and look at the water. Mom’s sigh let everyone know the depth of her annoyance.  She stopped dead-still, back to the family, foot tapping, and waited while they interfered with her life.  They looked at the water.

No way for me to make this my business. None.
I could smile and say something inane…”beautiful day”…but it wasn’t a beauty she could see. So I just said, “Hi. Cute kids. Nice day to be together in the park.”

And I moved down the path, helpless.

This young woman reached for the comfort of food–the comfort of eating and the comfort of suppressing what was eating her.  That comfort is vital but her choice is deadly.  To sustain we have to find some wiggle room–a way to get out from under the pain.

Sometimes, the comfort is food or drink…or both..fleeting comfort that adds new layers of need.

Realistically misuse of food and drink lead to a new guilt, but a guilt that is easier to handle than the guilt or shame that triggered the pain. This new guilt is one that masks the hopelessness and one that we say we can control. We just need to stop.

That isn’t the key.  Dieting won’t open the guilt and shame to the light of freedom.  Dieting is the twin of drinking/eating for oblivion, another broken crutch that won’t hold the weight.

Risk.  Risk trusting someone, an individual or a group with whom to share what needs to be spoken.  Risk opening up what festers so the healing can happen.  Imagine the joy of no longer needing the false comfort because we faced the real pain and we understand.

Weighing In: A Summer Rerun

I have missed you, Gentle Reader.   My time to slog-a-blog has been severely restricted by real life happening in lieu of my plans to be with you each day.  When we don’t communicate, I feel the empty spot…the spot that belongs to you, Gentle Reader.

So I am taking a page from the television playbook and re-running some older blogs.  Maybe you missed this writing the first time around.  And maybe it is even worth a reread.

Weighing In:  A Summer Rerun

Noticed some Celebrity and Fashion Photos.
Noticed ‘thin’ almost to skinny anorexia.
Know that our culture seems obsessed with weight, size and shape.
Huge amounts of money pay trainers and gym time.
Groups flourish for the expressed purpose of regulating our size and shape.
Women diet to lose weight and undergo surgery to add dimension.
The value of our shell trumps the inner core.

Consider the reasons we consume food.
Two of those reasons are precious: sustenance and sharing love and the times of our lives.
Consider all we consume that is harmful to both nutrition and enhancing special moments.

Interesting concepts.

I pay dollars to the gym so I can exercise when the weather is uncomfortable. More of my dollars go to the local high school pool so I can burn calories. Daily walks and weekly ice skating chip away at the imbalance of intake and output. Granted, I love every minute of exercise and it does so much more than sustain the body.

In the distant past, I even became part of a group designed to teach the discipline of eating. Now eating habits are almost lock-step in routine. My grandchildren tease that I eat cheesecake once each year and that is my quota of dessert.

How absolutely silly that types!

When I was 50 years old, I joked that at 70, I would eat dessert first and take up cigarettes. Age 71 dessert is not on the table. Cigarettes? Never.
Rationally I understand my regulated patterns, but those patterns are terribly annoying. My new resolution is for age 75. Then I will eat nothing but desserts so I have a ton of excuses to walk, skate and swim even more.