Sunday, December 4, 2022

Nearly ten days without a refrigerator

and my husband and I were annoyed, but resigned to tough it out, packing up coolers on the back porch, the bottles of condiments, the eggs and cheese, all of the Thanksgiving leftovers. (Yes, the refrigerator conked out on Thanksgiving night, gradually, and then all at once.)

While we were enjoying dessert, my husband scrolled around online to order a replacement, excited that one could be delivered Saturday. It was only after he placed the order, that we realized that Saturday actually meant the following Saturday. Worse, the weather had turned weirdly warm, creeping up into the fifties, so we had to keep replenishing the ice out in the coolers. Still, how quickly we adapted, 

heading out to the back porch for an egg or the mustard. We farmed out leftover turkey to a friend's freezer. We made do with room temperature drinking water. Nine days of this, and I said to my husband, Maybe, we don't even need a fridge! 

Haha I was joking, but it was good to know that we could deal with a major inconvenience without coming to blows. (Although, there was one moment when we did snap at each other over our not-entirely-frozen chocolate banana smoothies. The frozen bananas had gone to... gloop out in the cooler.) 

Totally unrelated, all week I was reading a book about the various transitions we go through in our lives, 

how we grapple with events that might shatter us—the job losses, the health crises, a death in the family. Along with those that are presumably joyous—a marriage, a career change, a new baby. For a while we spin around in confusion, trying to make sense of the new reality, but eventually we absorb, we manage, and eventually, we might even thrive again. Which is good to know, because for most of us, there'll be at least a dozen of these events over a lifetime.   

Living without a refrigerator for nearly ten days is a blip in the ultimate scheme of things. It's nowhere near as time consuming or emotional as a wedding. And it doesn’t come close to approaching the shock and grief of a death in the family. 

Coming so quickly after those two, though, I can tell you it's a blip that hits a tad harder, the kind of thing where you say, What else can happen? and then immediately want to reel those words back in, because you know what else can happen, and you really don't want to tempt fate, especially when you're still in the "spinning around in confusion"/"absorbing it" stage. 

Anyway, finally, the day came for the new fridge to arrive, and I almost couldn't believe it, thinking there would be a delivery delay or maybe it wouldn't fit properly. But it was almost too quick and easy how it all worked out. Within a few hours the condiments were back in their proper place, the eggs fitted into the lovely egg compartment, bananas freezing up nicely for the next morning's smoothies, 

everything normal again, at least in the kitchen. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

It took me fifteen years to try it

and the next fifteen years, I couldn't get enough of it. I am talking, of course, about my mother-in-law's famous Dorito Casserole. She calls it her "Chicken Enchiladas." But I call it Dorito Casserole because, as the name implies, it contains Doritos. An entire bag, to be specific. 

So, the backstory here is that every Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law would make the dish, and often, I'd watch her make it (pro tip: do NOT do this) and I'd be... repulsed and have no desire to eat it, but then, the entire casserole would get snarfed down by everyone else, and I'd wonder,

but not wonder too hard, what I was missing. Until one day, there did happen to be a small bit of it remaining, and tired of all of the other leftovers, the mashed potato, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc., I heated up some of the "Chicken Enchiladas," and let's just say, 

a new fan was born. 

(If the Dorito Casserole is wrong
I don't want to be right)

Every year after, and any year my mother-in-law wasn't here, I'd be the one opening the bag of Doritos and mixing up the gloop, the dish by then a family favorite, the first request of the kids when they came home for the holidays, the one recipe Thanksgiving guests would ask me for later, and I would always have to tell them: "Don't think too hard about what's in this." 

Okay, I'll tell you what's in this. * 

But first, let me tell you about the opposite of what's in this. Actual food. I've been thinking about actual food lately because my husband and I have been trying to eat better, and better, in our definition, means eating food. IE: things that aren't processed or are minimally so, things that our grandmothers would have identified as food. Except this isn't entirely true. 

Our grandmothers (and his mother) grew up on farms, and processed food (they would say "store bought") to them meant better. In their opinion, if you could afford to buy a can of tomatoes, why in the world would you spend time growing tomatoes, harvesting tomatoes, canning tomatoes? 

Interestingly enough, the grandchildren are enamored by growing and harvesting and canning. They shop at farmers markets and worry about sustainability and local food chains and food deserts. One set of kids is presently living and working on a farm, something that had many of the farm-raised older relatives shaking their heads in genuine confusion. 

I recently read a book about this present-day farm, a memoir by a woman who left her city-life to follow her husband's dream, a fully sustainable farm that can feed hundreds of people, and I must say I can see the appeal. 

One sticking point though: on Thanksgiving, can I still eat the Dorito Casserole? 

*As promised: Linda's Chicken Enchiladas (affectionately known as The Dorito Casserole)

  • 1 cup cooked and cubed chicken (or turkey)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
  • 1 medium jar of Cheez Whiz
  • 1 bag of Doritos
Mix together everything except Doritos. Pour small amount on bottom of baking dish. Alternate layers of soup mixture and chips. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

This plant opens in the sun

and closes up in the dark. It's very strange, how the fan-like leaves squinch up at night. How when I open the blinds for it in the morning, the leaves spread themselves wide and crowd in the same direction toward the window, the flowers arching toward the glass. 

I don't know what kind of plant it is but I like it. I tote it around the house in search of better sunlight exposure, not wanting to tell it that sunlight is precious this time of year in Central Ohio. I suppose it'll figure it out for itself. Meanwhile, I've turned on my Light Therapy Lamp

and it's sorta helpful, but even with it blazing, I can feel my energy drain drain draining away. The gray cold days around here are so... gray and cold. I want to curl up under the covers and lose myself in a book. I want to snarf down gooey cream soup-based casseroles. I want to squinch up like the leaves on my weirdo plant and go to sleep. How is it nearly winter? How is it that four days from now it's Thanksgiving? Yesterday 

I walked down to the farmer's market at the end of the street to pick up my pre-ordered turkey. I didn't think about how I'd have to heft it home. Twenty-two pounds, which seemed like something I could carry, and it was boxed up and easily carriable, but add a cold wind and the 25 degree temps, and how bundled up I was in my arctic coat, and three minutes into the walk back, the twenty-two pounds was feeling more like fifty. 

After I dumped the turkey off at the house, I trekked back to the market, the last day of the season, and not much left for sale except for random root vegetables. Not that I have anything against root vegetables, but I want the fresh spring kinds of vegetables. 

I want spring. 

I want it to be light in the morning when I wake up and light after dinner when I take the nightly walk with the dog. Instead, we walk

in the dark, past the droopy brown flowers lining the curbs, the icy wind blowing the dog's ears back, an unexpected swirl of snow that takes us both by surprise. Home, and I peel off my many layers of clothes, a toweling off of wet dog, a quick dash upstairs to turn my weird plant away from the window, one purple flower pasting itself defiantly to the glass. 


Sunday, November 13, 2022

Hello I am very loud

maybe it's the blaring music I listened to as a teenager, the concerts where you walk out of the stadium with your ears ringing, and now, the hearing loss is finally catching up with me. And/or maybe it's an old habit left over from being a teacher and public speaker. Also, my aversion to holding a microphone (I don't like how my hand shakes when I'm holding one), but no big deal because I CAN PROJECT MY VOICE. 

The problem is sometimes I do that, even when the situation does not call for it. A quiet restaurant. A conversation in someone's living room with family or friends. One of them shushes me, and I immediately vault back to being a child, the keeper of secrets who told, and 

was told: You have a big mouth. In my defense, the earlier times I told, and told quietly, no one seemed to hear me. 

This is all to say that Me and Being Loud go way back. But I wasn't thinking of any of this the other day at the library. I was at the help desk, greeting patrons as they came in to pick up their holds, scurrying over to the fax machine to help someone fax a document, helping someone else at the printer,

having a long, very loud (I'll admit it) conversation with Mr. W., one of our regular patrons, someone I adore and know is hard of hearing so we all have to shout when we speak to him. 

It's my day today! he said. 

and I said, OH YOU'RE RIGHT, VETERAN'S DAY (because I know he is a proud veteran) THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SERVICE! 

A short pause after he left to catch my breath, another patron heading over to the desk from the computer area, and what might he need help with? 

I have a complaint, he said, and I was all serious and ready to hear it. Trouble with the printer? A problem locating materials? An issue with our catalog, our magazine selection, a missing newspaper? 

You are very loud, he said, pointing at me. 


I stammered an apology and he went on. How he was trying to read and how very loud I was, over by the printer and at the computers and having very loud conversations with people at the desk. 

Oh, that. I started to explain about sweet Mr. W and how he is a regular patron and we know that he is hard of hearing. 

The man cut me off. Well, he should get his hearing problems taken care of! There was more grouching about how libraries have changed and not in a good way and aren't they supposed to be quiet and what was it with all of these people talking, all of these mothers and their crying babies and why couldn't they control their crying babies--

My ears were ringing at this point, worse than those blaringly loud concert nights, and now I was sputtering defenses of the people who needed help with the printer, the mothers with the crying babies (not that there were any around at the moment) but they were welcome in the library too, 

and Maybe, I said, gently, quietly, You would be happier at the main library, where there is a quiet room? Because this library, our library, doesn't have a quiet room. 

The manager came out then to resolve the situation, not that it could really be resolved. The man wanted quiet, wanted shushing, but the world has changed. Sometimes the library is loud. Some of our patrons are loud. I am loud. 

Or I guess I should say, I AM LOUD. 

I promise I'll try to keep my voice down in your living room or at a quiet restaurant, but when I am chatting with Mr. W, at the help desk, PLEASE DON'T SHUSH ME. 

Sunday, November 6, 2022

First, there was a wedding

and then there was a funeral. The wedding, we planned for over a year. The funeral, we took care of in less than an hour. 

And how efficient it was and easy, the funeral director so calm and gentle in his suit. The box of tissues on the table, an offer of bottled water. He opened his laptop and pulled up what I realized must be a fill-in-the-blank form. He called my father-in-law by his first name, but added a mister. And where was Mr. Richard born? And what brought y’all down here? And was Mr. Richard in the service? And what branch of the service was Mr. Richard in? 

And kindly to my mother-in-law: How long were you and Mr. Richard married? Fifty-eight years? Hmm. He was typing on his laptop and looking over the top of it, stopping every now and then to let us all collect our thoughts. 

I don’t know what all of our thoughts were. I know mine were a mixture of all the words for stunned. The loss of my father-in-law and how his kind face kept floating up in my mind. The time my college boyfriend took me home to meet his dad and mom, how kind they both were and welcoming, taking us out to a show at the Grand Ole Opry and then to dance at country and western bar. Me, a manic Yankee girl from Connecticut, doing some kind of country western showdown whirl around the dance floor with my soon-to-be father-in-law. 

He was a good person. I know everyone says this when someone dies, but in his case it is all true. A good husband. A good father and grandfather. A good friend. 

But back in the funeral director’s office, I was amazed at how smoothly and quickly the process was going. Putting the finishing touches on the obituary and the service, selecting the coffin. And why wouldn’t it all be smooth and quick with this clean-cut man in his suit? He must’ve done this thing a thousand times. 

And that had clearly been enough times to know that it was the very first time for us. 

A week ago we were at a wedding and now we were going to a funeral. The planned for a year wedding. The planned for an hour funeral. Both had the food, the flowers, the music. The loved ones gathering. The laughing and crying together. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Every day there is an affirmation

in the 10 minute yoga morning movement class my husband and I do. This is an online thing we have discovered after I did my goat yoga class and felt so centered and joyful that I wanted to bring it all home with me--

not the goat part, but the centering and joy--and we found it with Kassandra with a K on Youtube, and unrolling our yoga mats out in the living room and doing our deep breathing and bowing with our hands to our hearts and repeating the day's affirmation, something about peace or abundance or inviting calmness into your life or whatever, and so of course, we wanted to do this

on the day of our daughter's wedding. Not enough yoga mats, and the living room in the Airbnb was really too small for the four of us--husband and me, daughter and son--but we parked ourselves on the carpet and stretched and reached, down-dogged and warrior-posed, laughing at one point when our legs tangled up, reminding me of a Twister game, Kassandra with a K, all perky 

on my laptop, revealing her affirmation, which fit perfectly for the day ahead: 

I am a vessel of love, she said, and the four of us repeated it dutifully, and later throughout the day, when we dressed and posed for pictures, when we greeted family and friends, during the ceremony and after, the dancing and toasting, the evening, so long looked forward to and prepared for, and now whirling on, swirling past, 

until the final moments, a bride and groom run under sparklers, and teary hugs goodbye before all heading in different directions,

but back to the morning on the carpet, when we were all still together--

I know I know I know we can't make time stop, can't roll it back up like yoga mats to unroll whenever we want, light the sparklers again or button the tiny white buttons on the back of the wedding dress, cut the flowery cake anew, or fling open the doors and see the radiant bride for the first time, making her way down the aisle toward her groom, but listen

and repeat after me:

I am a vessel of love. Now bow your heads.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Stretch your legs and smile, as Louie the dog stretches his paws too and gazes at all of his silly lovely people. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Not pink sandals but

Yesterday I bought shoes.  

I had been putting off buying shoes because I don't like buying shoes. Or shopping in general. (See: my recent struggle to buy a mother-of-the-bride-dress.) But that turned out to be... not so hard, and I was thinking, Okay, maybe I can replicate that experience with the shoes. 

But then I got covid. (See: how I got covid) and that set me back a few weeks, and then, suddenly, this wedding is less than a week away!!! and I still had no shoes. 

Anyway, I bought a pair yesterday, and only a few stressful moments, trying on different styles and wanting to be the kind of person who could pull off the trendy shoes, the strappy shoes, the pointy-heeled shoes. The ones with the sparkles, the glitter, the color. 

But this just isn't me. Apparently, I am a nude-shaded, medium-heeled, pumps woman. Also, I require the cushion-y inserts for extra arch and heel support. For the record, the shoe salesguy approved of my choice and I admit that his approval gave me joy. 

The shoes have a little shine to them, a lovely glossiness, and that gives me joy too. I want more of that. Joy. 

I walked out of the store swinging my shopping bag, and for a weird moment I am years in the past, a young mother, my two-year-old daughter (soon to be the bride!) clasping my hand. We are walking past a shoe store and she tugs me toward the display window. A pair of bright pink sandals behind the glass. Another tug into the store, where against my better judgment, I let her try the sandals on. 

She doesn't want to take them off. I have a brief war inside myself. The sandals are 35 dollars! At the time, a lot of money for a pair of child's shoes. And up to that point I have never bought myself a pair of shoes that cost that much. But my daughter looks so adorable wearing them and pointing at her feet and saying, "Pink sandals" in her sweet high little toddler voice. 

I bought her the shoes. 

And now I remember how the rest of the day she kept stopping to bend down, to wriggle her toes, and sing out "pink sandals" so joyfully that I let go of any regrets I had about the pricey purchase and stopped whenever she did to sing it with her. Pink sandals pink sandals pink sandals

And what joy we both had that day.