Seasons Greetings and a rant

Janet on Santa's lap

I was a happy toddler.  Many a time my mom would recollect with melancholy how as a baby I would laugh endlessly and oh, what happened to me?  She’d scolded me to stop laughing somewhere around the age of 9.  Her anger was so deep and everpresent I did stop laughing.  There was not a deep enough breathe I could hold to float above her unhappiness and stay out of the danger of being punished for exhibiting joy.

You may think what follows to be unkind of me.  It’s been 27 years since she asked why did I stop the laughter.  Poor mom.  She’d suffered from Parkinson’s disease had become bedridden.  I sat at her bedside and fessed up she’d told me to stop.  She was mortified.

I believe that until that moment she had forgotten the miserable battle ax she was at one time.  Obese, her unhappiness selfishly furnished the little bungalow our poverty-stricken life afforded us.   I was an obese child from the age of 6.  Bullied everywhere I went, school, outdoors, the neighborhood and yes, even at home, she was just as much a tormentor to me as anyone else.  One day she found her way, discovered Weight Watchers and drove across Detroit to the other side of the tracks to lose weight and not be hungry.  It worked, way back in the old days as we at WW like to recall, when we made our own ketchup, substituted canned bean sprouts for pasta, ate liver once a week,  fish five, added no fats, sugars, starches, sweets, and ate specific foods in specific amounts.  She weighed everything on a tiny little scale she even took with her to restaurants.  Seventy-two pounds dropped off of her and she suddenly became a happy person.  I was suddenly seen as the grudge-a-mudgeon she and the rest of life had trained me to be.  Good lord.

She tricked me into joining Weight Watchers.  For a while, I succeeded.  Then I got distracted, I missed eating like a normal person, the skinny kids around me had sandwiches made with two slices of bread.  My sandwiches were made with one slice of toast that was then sliced or shall we say cloned in two pieces from top to bottom so that the bread appeared to be two separate slices.  I took enough hounding at school about my cracker sandwiches I would eat my lunch in the toilet stall so no one would see me struggle with the 4 ounces of tuna fish mixed with dried onion flakes and French’s mustard.  I often recall this regimen when taking a pee.

I did start to “cheat”, taking a taste of this, a dab of that, a bite of a candy, cookie, cake, ice cream, etc.  letting the little food scale go over slightly, or using heaping tablespoons instead of a level measurement.  But I was hungry, I just didn’t really understand what I was hungry for.   Sometimes, if the item fell out of my hand, I would remind myself God was watching, and watching out for me.  I spit out a lot of this and that tidbits.  Call me a spiritual anorexic who was not thin.  Just fucking hungry.

Because I’d been cheating, my weight stopped its decline and I held steady at a weight I wasn’t taunted for yet not trim enough to get a boyfriend.  Mom, who had been recruited by Weight Watchers to open and lead groups on our side of the tracks, decided to put me on the adult program with a LOT LESS food to eat.  That didn’t help.  It did save me from having to chew.  Growing even hungrier, I cheated more.  When I earned a driver’s license she would allow me to take myself to the Weight Watchers meetings for teens and children.  She would check to see I’d checked in and with a heavy sigh not understand why I wasn’t losing weight.   In hindsight, I see I was an unhappy child who was hungry for love, approval, and the opportunity to make some of my own choices.  I also needed a good laugh.

During true adulthood, I finally gave up being stubborn and joined Weight Watchers, determined to lose the weight.  I did. Not easily I made it to goal weight and earned Lifetime Member status thirty-seven years ago.  I struggle to keep it off, and that struggle is my own doing when I submit to drinking wine as if it counts pointwise like water, eat ice cream as if there is no caloric value to it, and frost my toast with enough Smart Balance it just isn’t smart anymore.

A niece of mine died suddenly on a Friday the thirteen this year.  I proceeded to drown my sorrows and grief in an ocean of wine and ice cream.  A late friend of mine who had been a recovered alcoholic for a number of years before he too passed, put his finger on it for me when I explained to him my unmistakable hangover as a result of having to send my cat of 16 years to wait for me at the Rainbow Bridge.  “You just don’t want to feel the pain, do you?” he observed.  I will always be grateful to him for that wisdom.

I knuckled down to WW (as Weight Watchers is now known)  when my jeans were fitting too snug and too short.  I didn’t want to feel the pain, but I was feeling the pain of not being comfortable in my clothing, or in my skin.  September 30th I went back to the meeting place to show up more than occasionally and get back the feeling of confidence I have as no longer the fat kid in the house, on the block, in the class, in the troop, in the hood, in the pool, on the earth.  I made my goal weight yesterday and damn, it sure feels good.

So here I am, and you are probably wondering about why Santa and I are featured on the page.  It is that most wonderful time of the year and I can feel that same smile I had on my face when the photo was taken.  I could use a good laugh but I will settle for being content.

Oh, and by the way, Mom apologized.

 

 

 

Rendered wordless

While I hammered out the previous post HOLDING THE END IN MY HANDS someone dear to me lay dying.

I have barely been able to hold a pen in my hands. Those times when I reflect on writing my final wishes that evening, I feel selfish.  Yet there wasn’t a thing I could have done to change the outcome.   On that I am certain.

I’d tried to reach them, tried to teach them, sharing my hard-earned wisdom of history, genetics, and unfortunate choices.  Never could I share an “I told you so,” my head full of old wounds offered to protect them.  They already knew.  They hurt enough and their wounds, like a protector, I wished would quickly heal.  I preferred to dish out “Atta girl, Follow your heart and happiness will follow, Do what you love and love will come to you, Lead with your gut but don’t forget your head, Life is short, and a complimentary You rock!”.

It’s over now. I will not dwell on the proximity I never had. I’m grateful for the times I had her ear, most grateful to have learned she had listened.  Selectively.  I’m grateful for the times we had together throughout our lives.  I’ve grateful she was brought into this world, so sad to say she is gone.

Thus I see how short life is and I say it often, I’m saying it to you:  Life is short.  Live every moment as if it is your last.  Forgive and forget.  Rock on.  Follow your heart and happiness will follow.

And for her:

 

YOU ROCKED!

Cutthroat

My heart beats bleeding

What do I say as my heart beats bleeding,

As the same blood flows from kin

The waterfall of pain ripped open by sleeping?

How many roses do I buy to get in the door,

Extend  arms out not simply to comfort

Show I care, show I am there?

How many times do I knock on the door

Pleading to come in

Feeling only silence?  Avoiding the din?

My heart beats bleeding

My desire  to teach

How I crawled on this journey

The dust the dirt

abrasions on my tummy

I might have saved you,

Would rescue you still.

Could only it matter

My attempt to reach?

You leave us shattered

The moment is here

No reasons for speech.

 

 

Holding the end in my hands

A postcard arrived in the mail from The Neptune Society recently.  My first thought,  “Burial at sea, hmmm.  I’ve always liked water.”  Second thought, “With my luck I’ll end up on top of Osama bin Laden.”

The Neptune Society is a company which allows an individual to preplan their cremation.  I have known for a  very long time cremation is what I wish for my remains, at least after any usable organs have been removed, harvested, whatever.  Just do not lock me in a casket, encase me in concrete, bury me beneath the surface of the earth.  I used to have bad dreams as a child I’d accidentally be buried alive and wake up after the dirt had been piled atop, everyone had left the after party and all the cake was gone.  Cake never really figured into any of this until just now.

I sent in their reply postcard requesting information from Neptune.  Figuring it would take a while I was very surprised to learn less than a week later, my husband and I had gotten a call from one of their agents to set up an appointment with us at our house.  He and I figured we would look at their plan and get some other quotes on final bonfires. In other words, we could kick that tire around until it went flat and forgotten.  We procrastinate way too much.

We signed on the bottom line.  Its all taken care of except monthly payments.  Unless I completely disappear, I will someday be blowin’ in the wind. I promise I won’t fart.

Detached is a good word for how I have approached my last wishes.  I am not one for wanting to go to my own funeral, and I really do not want one. I have had the pleasure of attending them throughout my life, exposed for the first time at the age of six when my Mom’s brother died. The experience wasn’t too terribly bad as I had my cousins to gang around the funeral parlor with, a ton of people attended, and I experienced Catholicism at its ritual finest.      Not long after, a Protestant Grandmother passed away. It was so sad. I remember cold, bleak darkness.   No hoopla for my favorite Granma. What a let-down.  Every other funeral has followed suit with hers.   Looking at a stiff, remark on how nice they look (For crying out loud, they are dead.  When does dead look nice?) sit on folding chairs and listen for pins to drop is not my idea of a send-off.   Aside from being a tremendous expense taking up valuable space in the earth strikes me as wasteful.  Someday earth’s inhabitants may need the area to plant or build upon.  I have been a long-term advocate to Prevent Poltergeist!

My husband and I received, in separate boxes, our ‘preneed’ kit.  We each got a beautiful box. They are shiny, smooth, and the top of the box is rounded. The interior is soft and plush.  Included are a candle and holder, a slab of acrylic with “Forever Loved” beautifully engraved upon it, and a tiny little plastic bag and plug for a tad of my cremains for someone to hold onto until thrown out or donated to Goodwill.  There is a circle carved out of the slab. I initially pictured a photo of my favorite dead cat in it until my hubby pointed out it is a place for the candle holder.  The plug goes on the bottom of the slab.

I’m not going in there. All of the above sits above a hidden interior compartment (not really hidden, there are obvious pull tabs. I was enjoying the haunted feel).  A Guide to Goodbye lays on top of a biodegradable box my actual cremains are to be placed into after I am cooked and crushed.

I want to fly like an eagle, roll down a river, ride the air and float the ocean to disappear into nothingness.  I do hope I don’t hang out in the box very long. I’m claustrophobic.

My husband heard me open up the cardboard shipping box, remove the packing, and asked, “Did our caskets arrive?”.   That sucked all the air out. I was getting an early look at my own funeral.  I could customize it.  Put in the names of everyone important, everyone who would find it important to come pay some last respects to me.  I find that regretfully humorous as no one comes to see me while I’m living and breathing and able to serve up some awesome cookies.   A very lonely thought, indeed.  I put everything away.  I hope the next time its opened will be when the time comes for me to be swept up off the conveyor belt and poured into the biodegradable box, temporarily.  Really temporarily or I will come back and haunt whomever.  No cookies for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Carrot Cake I made

I made some changes to my cousin’s recipe.

I made one round layer.  Parchment paper is back in vogue for good reason. Trace the bottom of the pan, cut out the tracing.  Set that aside. Grease and flour the pan and put the paper cut-out in the bottom.    For the rest of the batter I made cupcakes with paper cups, the store bought type.  I’m not ambitious enough to create my own.  I do spray the cupcake cups with cooking spray so the papers can be peeled away.  I hate it when half the cupcakes or muffins stick to the paper and  go to waste or I  scrape away the cake with my teeth when no one is looking.  Forks are never around when you need them.  Cooking spray works like a charm.

Cut the oil to one cup.  For spices 2 tsp of cinnamon, 3/4 tsp each of ground ginger and nutmeg.  3/4 tsp. of salt, 1 3/4 tsp. of baking soda.  I grated up 2 1/2 Cups of carrots (organic: who can stand the taste of fertilizers and pesticides?), of which I made easy work of using my food processor.   It is the same little processor my Ex gave me thirty years ago.

Oops! I was clean out of brown sugar so I made my own.  Here is a good link for a how to:   http://joythebaker.com/2010/08/how-to-make-brown-sugar/   I made it in my stand mixer and did have to scrape the sugar down the sides of bowl.  Took a little elbow grease but I got’er done.

I used 3/4 Cup of chopped walnuts, only one cup of raisins and 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla, Mexican or Bourbon vanilla.  I likes it strong. And I likes to drink my booze on those rare occasions of indulgence.

For the frosting, I admit it to be a flaming red light food.  I bought some cream cheese frosting in a container, told my husband he was in charge of the frosting.  I forgot to remind him to hide it from me.  Let me just say, it wasn’t worth it.

The cake and the cupcakes took longer to bake than the average cake(s).  Utilizing both the toothpick test and testing the top of the cakes to spring back when touched lightly guaranteed doneness.  It is the OCD in me.  All were allowed to cool on racks for 15 minutes before a sharp knife (what Native Americans called Andrew Jackson) inserted along the interior side of the layer to loosen it.  The layer was placed upside down upon a cooling rack. Pan removed, the parchment paper was then peeled away and the cake allowed to cool.  No, I didn’t scrape the cake crumbs off to taste.  I have grown up a bit.

I tend to get carried away when I fill cupcake or muffin cups with batter.  For those that overflowed unto the top of the pan I did run that same sharp blade between the pan and the overflow.    The cupcakes were then tilted a bit on their sides to continue to cool completely.

This whole baking extravaganza took place on Christmas Eve, two plus weeks after my hubby’s original request to concoct a carrot cake.  It was my Christmas present to him;  he celebrates the occasion like a heathen, he just doesn’t.  I do enjoy Christmas, and I have learned these 17 years of us together to go about it lightly, protecting my own feelings.  My expectations are nil for his voluntary outward participation.  He got cupcakes and a batch of  Dory Greenspan’s World peace Cookies (A chocoholic’s answer to cocoa withdrawal).  I will allow you to look the latter up, it is in her Cookie Cookbook.  There is a sweet little story on how she named the recipe.

May your cookies gently crumble, your carrot cakes taste yummy, and let Peace prevail on earth, good friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Tabatha,

I found your “farm animal” catnip toy yesterday.  For the first time since we parted I was able to smile.  It was fun to remember you carrying it around the house while you spoke in tongues and looked for us in your anxious moments of separation.  You were so cute, embarrassed to be seen in a desperate moment of needing humans.  Not the usual look of one of God’s most successful predators. It’s been cleaned up and I took a needle and thread to the hole in its back where you chewed through to get to the nip.

The catnip in your backyard has begun to flower.  You did an awesome job getting the seed from one little plant spread around last year.  Catnip is coming up EVERYWHERE: in the raspberry bushes, under the deck, between the deck stairs, in my ice plant, the purple cone flowers, the dianthus, spirea, everywhere.  Some of the stalks are so tall you could have found shade behind them or a new hiding place from those obnoxious Magpies who had the nerve to visit your yard in the first place. You did yourself proud, it is a shame you aren’t here to enjoy your bumper crop.  If you could work some magic, send somebody by who could use a little pick-me-up, just so long as it is not a mountain lion.

The house has been terribly quiet. We miss your persistent whining, snoring in your sleep, and the occasional swear words uttered when you found yourself underfoot.  I haven’t hit the deck stumbling over your speed bump of a body lying on the dark rug in the dark night.  I secretly crave the feel of your silky fur on the skin of my feet or to find one of my slippers in some off location.

My free time has opened up.  I no longer have you plunking yourself down in the middle of the floor for one of the 30 or so daily massages you squeezed out of me.  I find myself ready for the day on time or even early.  Yet I would give my tail to see you again shoot up the stairs like a bullet, run to that favored spot to fall over, and give that look which said, “Well, what’s the hold-up?”.

Both of us are terribly sorry you had such a rough go as you began to ‘pack-up’ to leave.  Rand saw the changes in you before I did.  Truthfully, I wanted to hide behind a curtain of denial.  You had stopped playing with thing on the end of a string and showed zero interest going outside with me in the mornings.  You had stopped cleaning up the dry kibble we left for your overnight munchies.  The last of it was thrown in the trash, I know you wouldn’t have wished that awful prescription diet on any of the neighborhood cats who had the nerve to hang out or pass through your yard.  I did you a solid. 077.JPG

You were a great cat, Tabatha.  Unlike most of your species, you loved unconditionally, especially when we ate ice cream and with the exception of our feeble attempts to clip those talon like claws.  There was rarely a time when you were not willing to show love to us, generous with your head bumps, one of my favorite ways to be woken up.

We miss having you hold us down in our laps, greeting us at the door when we come home to then fall over on your side in submission following with  a steady murmur of purring.  You left us with many happy memories.  We are grateful you chose us, sorrowful at your passing.  The place you reside in our hearts is yours to have forever.

All our love,

Janet and Rand