Miss Beulah

Standard

It is 1957. I will be 4 soon. I am in the playroom at the department store. My mother is shopping for a dress.

All the toys and books are for babies and I am bored. My pink dress is scratchy and I cannot sit still.

I wander out the door and down the hallway. There are lots of doors and one is open. I look inside.

A man sitting at a desk says, “Well, hello there, young lady.”

He walks out from behind the desk and picks me up. He sets me on top of a big metal box with handles on it.

His hair is slick and oily and seems too small for his head. He looks at me like I am some kind of bug. I think he would like to crack me open like an egg and see what is inside me.

“Mr. Crenshaw?” A woman’s voice comes from the doorway.

“Is something wrong?” she asks.

The man says, “Hey, Miss Beulah. This little girl was rubbing her eye. I thought she might have something in it.”

“I’ll take care of her, Mr. Crenshaw,” Miss Beulah replies.

She pushes past the man and scoops me up. I have never seen anyone like her. One of her arms is as big as my body. Her skin is dark brown and she smells like she was just starched and ironed. Also there is something inside her that feels like iron. She does not seem to like me much. But I think I like her.

One thing is for sure: she doesn’t like Mr. Crenshaw.

She holds me without moving. I don’t move, either. We both watch as Mr. Crenshaw ambles toward the store and out of sight.

She takes me back to the playroom and sets me on a bench. She looks at me for a minute.

She says, “Don’t go out there again.”

But I have already decided I won’t.

When my mother comes to pick me up, I run to hug her. Then I turn around and run to Miss Beulah and I hug her.

Miss Beulah jumps. She looks scared for a minute and she looks at my mom. Then she looks at me and her eyes get red and shiny.

“Goodbye, baby,” she says. “You be good now.”

I will try.

Advertisements

field trip

Standard

on the Memphis side of the Hernando de Soto Bridge

Maybe a field trip to Marion wasn’t such a good idea, I thought, stuck in the stop-and-slow on the Hernando Bridge, bouncing ever so slightly from a cosmos of 18-wheelers. But I really needed some big sky and wide open spaces.

The Big Muddy is murkier than usual and has surged deep into West Memphis. But the corn is up, ears already fat and round, the size of a man’s fist. Rice fields are exuberantly green from so much rain. And there’s more coming, overhead clouds plump and milky enough to satisfy Howard Hughes.

I don’t know why the tree died but its skeleton is like silver in the sun,
reaching up as if to reanimate itself as a still living thing.
It could happen on a day like today.

I meet some people who are happy to see me and my money. At a tiny charity shop, I buy a whole bag of stuff for friends I haven’t met yet. On a nearby shelf, a radio is tuned to a talk show. The guest tells her host that he must be sanctified for his works to be good.

I decide this is Cheat Day and drive to a shady parking lot to eat my drive-thru burger and fries. Across the street is an older house I would love to own. I picture myself on the porch, looking at paint swatches for the trim.

Heading back, I take the old route home on a 2-lane, where there is hardly any traffic. I wish I could play hooky for the rest of the day. But work is waiting and I’m glad for it. And my whole body is smiling.

Improv Tom Kha Gai

Standard

I had most of the ingredients for tom kha gai but I just didn’t have time to skip out to the Asian grocery for traditional elements of this soup, like kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Shiitake, oyster or maitake mushrooms weren’t available at my grocery but baby bellas are a nice substitute.

I had bought a jar of almond butter that had way too much oil floating on the top. So I poured it off and used it to saute my onions. SUCH amazing flavor. But ordinarily I would use EVOO.

There is no substitute for fresh ginger and cilantro. There just isn’t. So if you have them, use instead of ground spices. Sauté a sliced 1/2-inch nub of fresh ginger with your onions and add a handful of chopped cilantro at the very end.

If you want to use precooked chicken, add it at the mushroom stage.

Sambal oelek is my favorite way to add heat to a dish. But you can use red pepper flakes, Louisiana Hot Sauce or sriracha sauce as you like. I would advise not adding so much that you drown out the other spices.  But, hey, this is your soup, you can do whatever you want.

If you have more people than soup or want to stretch it out, ladle it over a bowl of rice noodles or vermicelli. IMHO, nothing is finer than finding noodles at the bottom of my soup.

INGREDIENTS
extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 fresh whole chicken breast, cubed
1 cup chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms

2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sambal oelek, more or less.  Or none.

salt to taste

DIRECTIONS
Heat olive oil over high heat in a Dutch oven and sauté onion for 2-3 minutes. Add peppers and sauté another minute or so until the onions are soft.

Add cubed chicken and cook just until all the pink disappears. Add a little more oil if you need to. Don’t overcook. It will finish during the simmer phase.

Stir in chicken broth and coconut milk and when it reaches a simmer, turn down the heat to continue simmering.

In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, ginger and coriander. Stir in soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar and sambal. Add a couple of tablespoons of the simmering broth to the bowl and stir well. Then add all this back to the pot and stir.

When your chicken has simmered for 10-15 minutes, add the mushrooms and simmer another 5-10 minutes. Then turn off the heat.

I like to let mine rest for 10-15 minutes. It’ll still be hot enough to eat but that allows the spices to continue to bloom.

Taste your broth and add salt, lime juice, soy sauce or sambal as you like. Garnish with fresh cilantro if you have it.

nightmare

Standard

the fabric of life is torn from me.
I cannot bind these strips of bleeding flesh with your tears.

circles are widening on the canvas.
I fill them with pale light.
the blackness around them wonders why.
I have no reply. just go away.

pretend I was never here.
make it mean something.
otherwise it was all just a nightmare.

1962

Standard

It happened a long, long time ago. But it is also happening this very minute, like time travel. And I cannot make it stop.

I am 8 years old.

I smell the bacon as I pull on my dress.

I hate this dress. It’s ugly and it leaves scratches on my side. But she likes it.

I go into the kitchen. She is angry. I must have done something wrong. But I’m afraid to say anything.

She makes us eat breakfast every morning. I am queasy in the mornings and I hate breakfast. But she is a good mother and we are lucky. She wasn’t so lucky. She won’t talk about her childhood. She says it makes her sad.

She turns the eggs in the skillet. One of the yolks breaks. She sets down three perfect eggs, one for her, one for my brother and one for my father. She gives me the broken one. Now I know I have done something wrong.

My father comes to the table. He is angry, too. He and my mother don’t look at each other.

My brother doesn’t notice that anything is wrong. She speaks tenderly to him. He is the best thing in her life. I am just there to help with the housework. I wish I knew what made the difference.

So I ask her. She stammers and I never really get an answer. It’s a question I will ask her again when I am older.

“I was always afraid that you would be smarter than me,” she will say. “But I realized that since I am older than you, I will always know more than you.”

She doesn’t love me because I am smart? What do I do about that? I thought I was supposed to be smart. They fuss at me when I don’t make all A’s, even though they are happy with my brother’s B’s and C’s.

I already know I am not pretty. She is always telling me how pretty my friends are. She tells them how nice they look and she laughs with them. I wish she would laugh with me like that. But I am a disappointment.

I think if I were not around my parents would be happy. My brother is their true child. I wonder if I was adopted. That would explain why they don’t like me.

Maybe I can smother myself. I crawl into bed and put a pillow over my face. But I can’t do it. The air feels so good when I breathe it in. I would hate to die by drowning.

My mother comes into the room. “What are you doing in bed? Get up. You’re burning up.” My hair is wet from sweat. She thinks I went to bed because I am lazy.

She tells me to fold the laundry. I don’t know why she gives me this chore. I never do it right and she always complains. I’d rather be outdoors with the other children. But after this she is going shopping and I have to go with her. Dad is watching the game on TV and I will bother him. My brother gets to stay home and play outside. I do not understand this.

I hate shopping. It is boring. The store smells bad. But she loves it. I walk between the racks of clothing. I like the way the fabric feels. If I squeeze myself into the middle of a bunch of dresses it feels like a hug. Someone tells me to stop and behave myself.

My head hurts and I am tired. I just want to go home. But I don’t even know where home is anymore.

mindvideo

Standard

I’m so distracted I lost a shirt and my cup of coffee between the kitchen and the living room. I started a home project and couldn’t focus on what I was doing. So I’m just going to write it out.

My mother is dying. Conversations with family members invariably turn to memories of her.

Mine seem to be different from everyone else’s.

Utter one of her several bynames, and mindvideo from my vast collection queues up, my mother’s face distorted in anger, spewing criticism and humiliation.

This morning I am trying to see if I can edit those old tapes. I’ve never done this before and I can only make a start. But I figure anything I try can only make things better. And I have to trust the process.

Someone posts a photo of Mom on Facebook, remembering her with tenderness.

I see a woman about to explode with rage.

I step into the photo. Mom holds it together until she and I are alone. Then I will witness a barrage of frustration and vitriol. Granted, it’s not all about me. Maybe none of it is about me. But it will wound and deplete me all the same.

I’m trolling my mind for times when she and I laughed together. Those are the easiest ones to find. And the one that shows up is 50 years old. As other loves entered my life and vied for my attention, the laughter began to die. But in 1969, I was her best friend.

My father was 6 feet tall. Mom was 5’4″. When Dad was happy he’d come into the kitchen, where she and I were preparing supper. He’d hug her and then lift her straight up off the floor. He’d bounce her in his arms and she’d complain that he was hurting her boobies. But they’d both be laughing and I would be, too.

Mom loved to laugh and laughed easily, as did my father, when they weren’t fighting, which was often. When the two of them were laughing together, I knew my brother and I could relax for a few hours and they would be sweet to us and to each other.

Today I will play this mindvideo over and over to see if I can find footage before and after it, to look for details, like the pan of potatoes I was peeling or the dishes she was washing in the sink of our tiny kitchen. I will remember that I went to pick okra from the garden, washing and slicing it, dredging it in cornmeal and frying it in a cast iron skillet.

My mother is happy because I am helping her and I am good company and we are going to have a fine meal very soon.

As I write this, I’m aware that my palms are sweating and my heart is racing. I really don’t want to dig this deep. My friend, pain, is a festering abscess and I’d rather run in the other direction. But the only way to heal is to open the wound. And I’d rather face pain than live with bad memories.

It was only in the last couple of years that this type of abuse had witnesses. By then it was dismissed as a symptom of her dementia. No one believed me when I complained because she was consistently charming and kind to others. By the time I was 8 I was convinced I was just not worth loving.

What I do know is that hurt people hurt people and my mom’s story is full of pain. And through our family’s generations we have changed that trajectory. My grandson is proof of that.

This is limbic memory and no amount of positive thinking is going to change it. So I’m just letting the truth emerge as it will. And when it shows up, it looks like confusion, pain, anger, distraction, depression.

So I write. If the gods are with me, the stories emerge. I’m trying not to judge them as they do. What’s new for me is it no longer matters if anyone believes them. I know what happened.

My goal here is to tell my truth as I know it and to encourage others to tell theirs. It serves me nothing to perpetuate the myths of my family. If I do, I will never heal. And maybe through my healing, others will as well.

In one of my last conversations with my mother, I lay all my cards on the table. I like to think that I made amends to her but the only thing I remember is her saying, “I hope you’ll forgive me.”

That’s what this is all about. I’m sure gonna try.

Quinoa-Kale Salad with Lemon-Dill Dressing

Standard

I wish I could take credit for dreaming this one up. It’s actually a knockoff from a restaurant I’m boycotting (poor service). I really tried to hang with them for this salad. But I’m happier making my own.

My daughter introduced me to this salad as I was restructuring my diet pre-surgery. It’s packed with anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

This salad is a good keeper. The small seedless cucumbers don’t become watery like their larger seeded sisters. Baby kale is easier to digest and chopping it actually releases more nutrients. So you end up with a compact bed of greens that oxidize much slower.

Finally, most of these ingredients can be purchased ready to eat, cutting way down on prep time. As a fibro warrior, that’s also really important: saves spoons.

This makes enough salad for me for 3-5 days. If you plan to keep it longer, omit the cucumbers and add them fresh at serving time.

SALAD INGREDIENTS

  • One 5-oz. package of ready-to-eat organic baby romaine
  • One 5-oz. package of ready-to-eat organic baby kale
  • Four mini seedless cucumbers
  • One envelope of Success Boil-in-Bag Tri-Colored Quinoa
  • 2 T. DeLallo Simply Pesto®, Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil & Cheese
  • 1/2 c feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/2 c. organic sliced raw almonds

DRESSING INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t. dried dill weed
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. black pepper

PREPARATION

  1. Boil the bag of quinoa according to instructions on the box. When cool, empty into a small bowl and toss with the pesto. Set aside.
  2. Chop kale, romaine and cucumbers and transfer to a large bowl or kettle.
  3. Toss with lemon-dill dressing to taste.
  4. Add cooled quinoa and toss again.
  5. Top with almonds and feta.

IMPORTANT STUFF
The glucosinolates found in kale are utilized for DNA repair and help prevent cancer and slow the growth of cancer cells.

Along with the antioxidants found in romaine, the leafy green may also protect the body from cancer through its high folate content.

A study, published in 2015 in Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, found that individuals who consumed higher quantities of peanuts, walnuts, and almonds had their risk of breast cancer reduced by 2–3 times.

Quinoa contains a number of bioactive compounds, including polyphenols, which studies have shown can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. It also has a high concentration of protein and essential amino acids.

Cucumbers contain high levels of nutrients known as cucurbitacins, which may help prevent cancer by stopping cancer cells from proliferating and surviving.

Hebrews 13:2

Standard

This is a true story.

After dealing with LabCorp today and getting nowhere, I decided to run errands. It was sooo hot I wore a tank top and my tattoo sleeves.

I found a penny by the car, money side up. This has happened to me so often when I’ve been concerned about my finances that I’ve taken to calling it angel money.

In Tuesday Morning, I was a little annoyed at having to wait on the cashier to finish her story. So I eavesdropped.

She said to the customer in front of me, “And then this little boy sitting behind me pulled three roses out of the arrangement and handed them to three different women. I took it as a sign that meant everything is just going to be OK.”

In Kroger, I was a little annoyed at having to wait on a woman talking on her cell phone at the salad bar, who was dawdling over the romaine. So I eavesdropped on her, too.

She said, “She’s got about two weeks to go on her treatment. There’s a whole list of people praying and pulling for her.”

At least half a dozen people stopped to admire my tattoo sleeves and were shocked they weren’t ink. Young men smiled at me and stepped politely aside. Young women asked where they could get them for themselves.

A guy more my age followed me around the gourmet section and asked me on a date.

I told him I was expensive.

He said, “I’ve got Mama’s money until they cut me off.”

I laughed and kept walking, but in hindsight I should have asked him to pay my lab bill. I’m sure Mama wouldn’t mind.

This is what happens when people like you offer prayers and healing energy. A flock of angels arrive with messages of hope and joy — and even romance, or something like it. And they seem to be in no hurry to move out of my way.

Thanks for your contributions of love and money. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Forget not to shew love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ~ Hebrews 13:2, English Revised Version

Why not chemo?

Standard

Breast cancer? No problem. Get ’em cut off and then get radiation and chemo. You’ll do great.

But did you know that if you have fibromyalgia, you not only have a 20% higher risk of cancer but you are 80% likelier to die from that cancer?

Let’s look at the most common chemo drugs for breast cancer.

Anthracyclines: not recommended in patients with mitral valve prolapse or arrhythmia. Guess who has those?

Taxanes: not recommended in patients with arrhythmia or orthostatic hypotension. Guess who…

5-FU also not recommended in patients with heart issues. F.U. five times, OK?

Among Cytoxan’s side effects are pain, fatigue, hair loss, tingling in hands and feet and brain fog. Maybe I don’t actually have fibromyalgia; maybe I have Cytoxan.

Paraplatin is not recommended for people with a platinum allergy. How would you know?

So maybe I don’t do chemo. Maybe I just do radiation.

From macmillan.org: “Radiotherapy can change the cells lining the lungs. This can cause problems with breathlessness months or years after treatment. If you already have a chest problem, such as asthma, the symptoms can be worse.”

Guess who has asthma?

Javid Moslehi of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute writes, “Radiation can cause not just narrowing of the arteries and heart attacks, but abnormal heart rhythms, malfunctioning heart valves and other serious issues.”

I already have abnormal heart rhythms and a malfunctioning heart valve.

I’m thinking nutritional healing is going to be my best option. I found the Annie Appleseed Project through Chris Wark’s website. I’ll be reading there from now on and maybe stop scaring myself so much.

Blue Apron Salad

Standard

One of the nicest things I did for myself in 2017 was to sign up with Blue Apron. Meals are for two, which means I get great leftovers, too. Unless it’s a shrimp entree. There are no leftover shrimp in my house. Ever.

It’s been just too hot for frying or roasting this week. So I made soup with some of my latest shipment and put the rest in this charm tomato & fresh corn salad.

I’m having it for lunch today on a bed of balsamic-dressed romaine with dried cranberries and almonds (and one wandering cashew).

8 yellow charm tomatoes, quartered
2 ears of corn, blanched and cut off the cob
2 carrots, sliced
2 ribs of celery, sliced
1 Kirby cucumber, sliced
4 garlic chives, thinly sliced

Toss with this dressing:

1 T olive oil, 2 T rice wine vinegar, 1 T sugar
S&P

Serves 4-6, depending on how you roll.