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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Traveler's Soup

I got a request from my cousin, Kelly, who lives in Martinsville, Indiana. She asked for the recipe for some soup that I regularly make.

I actually had to think about it some, as I've never written it down.

Elsewhere in this blog I've mentioned that I learned the fine art of cooking mostly from my grandmother. I followed her around quite a bit when I was younger, trying to gain an understanding of her creative genius. She never wrote anything down either, and I've spent literally decades trying to reproduce some of her dishes.

All these years that I've worked to replicate her cooking style I learned that the secret was nothing more than love and an enthusiasm for her family and friends.

Today, I made one of my favorites that she used to make. I call it Traveler's Soup.

I call it this because it's made in haste and with love from ingredients that I have laying around in my kitchen and fridge. It cooks all day in a crock pot as it waits for those I love and care about to return to the love, safety, and warmth of the home.

I never make this the same way twice, as I rummage through my cupboards grabbing this and that. But it seems to turn out pretty good, at the very least edible. I haven't had any complaints thus far.

Lately, since we have been living a paleo lifestyle, I've made several changes to cut out a lot of the carbs. If you follow Weight Watchers® each serving of this soup is worth a little more than one point.

3 large tomatoes, stewed and crushed (you can use a 12 ounce can of crushed tomatoes instead)
1 chopped onion
1-2 lbs. of any meat you like (stew beef, chicken, ground turkey, whatever you like)
Cooking spray or olive oil

Sautee the onion in a dot of olive oil or cooking spray and then add the meat and brown slightly, then turn off and let rest.

Put the prepared tomatoes in the crock pot then add the meat mixture and stir.

Then get creative with your vegetables.  For my recipe, I generally add celery, cabbage, mushrooms, zucchini, pear squash (chayote) and bell peppers. You can definitely add other ingredients such as potato, carrots, corn or anything else.  Add equal portions of each of these until the pot is full (about 1/2 inch from the top).

Then cover with beef or chicken broth or bouillon dissolved in water (enough to cover when you're done adding the veggies). My crock pot takes about 6 cups.

Give the ingredients a good stir. Set on low. Forget about it until you get home.

If you are not watching carbs, you can serve this with a nice, crusty bread. I normally just eat the soup, maybe having a simple salad beforehand.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


I'm awake around 3:30 am every morning just about for the last 10 months or so.

Sometimes I can go back to sleep, sometimes I just lay there.

The wheels turn faster and louder some mornings. Sometimes to stop them, I'll get up and write. Sometimes the stuff I come up with is shocking, it floors me and renders me a trembling, sobbing mess.

Sometimes it's cathartic. Sometimes I ask myself why, wondering what's the point of it all.

Then I really think about the why.

There once was a time when I thought I would never be able to report the atrocities that happened to me; that I had no voice. Back then, I wasn't allowed to have a voice, much less an opinion. I wasn't permitted to make decisions for myself. I was told what to say, how to act, what to think, what to eat, when to sleep, how to dress and where I was allowed to go.

Woe unto me should I have deviated one iota. Heaven help me if I complained.

Truth be told, I chose to forget, tune out or block those things which were just too painful. The brain switched off; my body was there, my mind was someplace else. I'd wake up and wonder how I got a new bruise. Why did my arms hurt? I didn't remember.

The mind is a wonderful thing. I was in a comfortable place with it or at least believed it to be so.

Breaking free was hard; the hardest thing I have ever done. I couldn't do it alone. And although people do it every day, no one should have to face their fears alone. Everyone needs someone.

I've learned that I do have a voice, and oftentimes, it's quite loud. And I know that it's because my husband, Jerry, has done his very best to make me know I'm safe, and has worked hard for 23 years to love me despite the pain I'm in. He knows more about it than anyone on earth, with the exception of the SOB that abused me for years.

And a dear lady whom I entrusted to review and edit a certain chapter dealing with the goings-on in an ER room. (Thank you, Kim, for preventing the death of a protagonist).

It used to be that I would have nightmares. I wouldn't remember them. My husband would try to wake me, I would just cry inconsolably but I wouldn't fully wake up. It got to the point where he would just hold me while I rode through it.

Then, I remembered things, sometimes fragmented. Sometimes complete memories. They'd play in my mind like a horror movie, over and over again.  I wrote them down for him.  Pages and pages of stuff.  He has them put away somewhere.

10 months ago approximately, I  decided enough was enough. I would tell my story, albeit in the third person-as a fictional character. Thank you, Jonas, for the mentoring. The words came easier.

Now, approximately 10 months later, the first half of my work is finished. There's a great deal of personal experience that has gone into this, along with research (because, although I remember some of what was happening, I did not know the correct terminology to describe everything).

Tonight.  Tonight, I left my comfort zone and pitched the novel.  And it scares the living daylights out of me.  And it thrills me beyond all reason.

I'm aware that no one may ever read my novel. It may not be well-received. Some might even say that the work is crap.

Part of me would be crushed. The other part couldn't care less.

It's helped me so much to write this. Maybe it will help someone else to read it.

Because of this I have to try, regardless of why.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mom, do you know how to slow-dance?

Most people who know me know that I have a son with genetic bone disorder known as "Osteogenesis Imperfecta", better known as brittle bone disease.  Most know that since elementary school, he has been using a walker, and throughout junior high and high school, a wheelchair, as walking was just too painful.

Last year, while at a swim meet, while warming up for the breast stroke, he kicked another swimmer accidentally that was following him too closely.  This resulted in one of the worst fractures he had ever sustained.  The leg had the appearance of having a second knee.  And because he was 17, he considered it his God-given right to yell any and all four-letter expletives that he had in his vocabulary.

Looking at his leg, who could blame him?

He had to be extracted from the pool by EMT's and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance (second time in an ambulance, first time without me or his father).

The result of this experience was him having a steel rod shoved into his leg by one of the finest doctors I have ever known, and who actually patented the technique for this particular surgery.  Considering the damage to my son's leg, the scarring was minimal.  Thank God.

No sooner than being released from doctor's care approximately three months later did he insist on booking surgery for the other leg.

My husband and I both looked at each other, wondering why.  Why would anyone care to endure this amount of pain all over again?

My son put it simply, and for us it was a reality check.  "Because I want to get around like everybody else."

Who could fault him that?

This surgery was a bit more difficult than the other one.  His leg was severely bowed, and a piece of bone had to be notched away before the rod could be inserted.  It proved to be just as painful.

He was stoic about it, though.  After a day in the hospital, he refused the morphine and insisted to be released.

Taking only minimal pain medication, he forged through and made a remarkable recovery.

The first thing he noticed when he was able to stand on both legs for the first time was that he was taller, by better than an inch.  The next thing that he noticed was that when he was standing, that his legs were straight, and didn't bow out (he had never in his life been able to stand with his ankles together).

He walks just about everywhere now.  It hurts his back some because of the scoliosis, so he still uses the wheelchair from time to time.

Fast-forward to this past Saturday afternoon:  He's getting ready for a dance.  He'd went out and got a nice haircut, took a shower, shaved, put on cologne - the normal stuff a young man does to get ready.

He yells at me from his room, "Mom, can I ask you something?"

"Yeah, buddy.  What do you need?" I ask him as I'm walking in.

"Mom, do you know how to slow-dance?"

In all of his 18 years, I never thought I would ever hear this.  It's nothing I expected.  And it pulled at my heart-string just a little bit.

In reality, I know that thousands of moms or dads are asked this by their sons or daughters every prom season.

And although it's not his first dance, it's the first time he's danced with his new legs.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression is not a life choice, it is an illness

Can we now address this very serious issue?

Yesterday, the world lost the greatest comedian ever to walk the face of this earth.  The man was a charming man, he was a humanitarian, and a talent to be sure.  His presence filled the room he was in with joy, yet he died alone.

He suffered.

He suffered from depression and drug addiction.  His drug addiction was likely caused by self-medicating for depression.  He was open about his problems, yet he suffered in silence.

He will be missed.

Maybe as a society, we can now address the disease of depression - before it takes another precious life.

We have money to send to foreign countries; we send aid all over the world - it's a wonderful thing.  We should help one another; it's the right thing to do.  But maybe we need to take a step back and help our own sick, our own hungry, our own homeless.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Americans.  The most recent statistics state that there were 39,518 suicides reported in 2011 or one person every 13.3 minutes, this according to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  According to a 2010 fact sheet by The American Association of Suicidology released in 2012, "Major depression is the psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide."  Our veterans account for 20% of American suicides, with those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan having suicide rates four times higher than other veterans (Face The Facts USA),

Depression is not a life choice, it is an illness.  Until we as a society recognize this fact, this illness will continue to claim thousands of our loved ones each year.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Left over trick or treat candy

What can you do with left over candy?  I suppose you can stuff the office candy dish.  Maybe you can give it away as a sweet treat to your grandkids (my kids really get PO'ed when I do this).  Or maybe you can find new and interesting ways to otherwise get rid of it.

Why not whip up some of your favorite cookies using leftover Halloween candy.  I came across this article from Cosmo...  Happy Baking!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Unattentive Attendant

I, by the way, owe credit of the title of this Post to my husband, Jerry.

By way of cliché, it could have been titled "A funny thing happened at the gas station last night..."

OK, it wasn't funny.  It was horrible, in fact.

I was on my way home, by way of a new gas station (ok, new to me, my husband found it, and the prices are probably lowest in the county - and convenient, because it was right on my way home).

Anyhow, I find the station, pay for the petro and start to pump.  When I'm finished, I can't get the nozzle out of the fill tube of my truck.

I called my husband.

He told me to go get the attendant and have him help me remove it - it's his station.

Yeah, right.  A million dollars is going to drop out of the sky and land directly on my head, too.

So I go in, and, after a few minutes to get his attention (which was difficult, since, I being a woman am a second-class citizen in some cultures - this not a racial slur, but fact), I tell the guy that the fuel nozzle is stuck in the fill tube of my truck, and can he come out to help.  He says that he can't help me and that I should try to pull on it a little harder.  I asked him if there was an emergency number he could call so a technician could come out and help.  He replies that, no, there's nobody because the main office closes at 5:00 p.m., and no help until 8:00 a.m.

I go back to my truck.

I call my husband again, who is now pissed.  I tell him what happened.  After some expletives, he asked me to look on the pump for an 800 number.  I find one, to the AQMD.  He says call them and report it, then call me back.

The nice lady at the AQMD said that they will send an agent tomorrow, but maybe I should call the fire department.

I call my husband again.  More expletives.  He said to sit tight and he would be by to help me.

Then I got an idea...

I took photos of the pump, the nozzle and my truck, making sure that the attendant could see what I was doing.

I then calmly walked up to the attendant and told him that my husband would be along in a little while.  He said that it was good, he will talk to him.  I said to him that I didn't know, my husband is a real man of very few words and more of a man of action and that he probably wouldn't get much in the way of conversation.  I did add also that if my husband couldn't remove the nozzle, he'd just cut the hose and that would be that.

And walked away calling out, "Have a good evening..."

Literally 3 minutes later, a nice young man with a service tech jacket escorted the attendant out and talked him through how customer service is supposed to be.

After saying polite thank-yous, I called my husband who was half way there.  After telling him what I said to the guy about cutting the hose, he confessed, "Well, you know, I do have a really sharp knife in my toolbox and would have used it if I had to".

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Saddest Wrong Number

I was thinking about wrong number telephone calls just the other day when I happened to get one at work.

I've had many wrong number calls come in; from a person who called me a nasty name for not handing the phone to a party he was trying to call, to a wrong number from a couple getting ready to vacation in the States from England.  The latter call ended up being a very pleasant telephone conversation with them asking me of attractions which I considered fun that I could suggest to them on their vacation.

One of the saddest ones through was a message that I got on my answering machine one stormy night in 1991.  An older gentlemen was trying to reach his son, needing help.  You could hear the distress in this man's voice, as he explained that he would lose his orange crop by night's end if he didn't get some help with the torches.

I could imagine the ruin of the next day, when this man's livelihood would be wiped out from a single storm.

This was not the saddest part, though.

The saddest part was that the fellow, thinking he had reached the correct number for his boy, did not leave a return number.

Because, having studied horticulture for numerous years, I could have (and would have) helped.