Premonition

Premonition the noun from Middle French or Latin praemonere “to warn in advance”.

When I was about ten years old I was always riding my bicycle around our neighborhood. A ride on my bike was total freedom and it was one of the best feelings I remember from my childhood.

It was a beautiful summer day, not too hot as I would always set off in the morning. The sun was shining like a big yellow bursting ball in a deep blue sky. I remember the day because it changed me.

My parents were working and I was enjoying the day riding. I wore flip flops and just as I was turning the corner to reach my house, my flip flop got caught in the chain of the bike. Everything twisted and I fell (hard) onto the street.

On the old broken up asphalt, dirt and rocks I was stuck. I tried to speak and I couldn’t at first. Then I found my voice. I softly raised my tone to utter “help” repeatedly, but there was no one around. That sun was now beating on me and I felt sick, hot and dizzy. My knees stung like scraped knees do and my head and arms tingled, a sensation that was foreign to me. I couldn’t get up.

I tried to lift my head, to no avail. I remember turning a bit and seeing a small child through a screen door looking at me laying on the ground and thought if I could only get there for help. I could not.

I must have passed out, as the next thing I knew my mother was standing over me with some ladies from the neighborhood around her. I heard one say “her head is bleeding, there is a pool of blood”.

Not knowing how I got home, I was laying in my mother’s bed, holding a cloth on my head insisting I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I hated hospitals. My mother cleaned the wound and picked out all the debris embedded in my skin from various places on my body. She was a nurse, nothing phased her, but this must have been an exception. I heard some neighbors talking about how much blood was on the street. No mother wants to hear that about her child.

I was steadfast in my opposition to going to the hospital. I knew something was going to happen there I didn’t want to see or be around. I just knew, it was my first real premonition.

After a few hours, perhaps it was a shorter amount of time, she took me to the Emergency Room. I was adamant in my discontent at her choice. That happened often when I was a youngster, I was my mother’s daughter after all.

After my initial triage, more ice, bloodwork, and a cat scan, I began to vomit. The ER was packed with patients. I was miserable. I was just outside the main area by the entrance door on a gurney waiting to be seen. It seemed like forever, I knew it had to be at least 3 hours when I realized the time. ( some things don’t change with healthcare!)

All I kept thinking was I want to go home, I hate it here. I wasn’t scared, I just didn’t want to be there. I find it so ironic that my career led me to that same hospital some thirteen years later and it would become like a second home to me till my retirement.

Laying on the stretcher, repeating my distain to my mother about being there, it did no good. She went to check on the backlog and then it happened.

I was alone, feeling cruddy and angry she brought me there, I wasn’t a happy patient, never was and still am non-compliant in a hospital setting.

The double doors my stretcher was next to swung open and through those doors a man who had just shot his wife stomped through, screaming “someone help me, I just shot my wife”. The image seared in my mind. He was a huge guy, had to be over six foot three in height with broad shoulders. He had on dark pants and his tee shirt was soaked with blood.

All I could see of his wife was her long black hair dripping blood, as she was slung over his right shoulder and there was a bullet hole in her back. I looked around in dismay. All of a sudden I saw nurses running, gathering things all the while this man was yelling at the top of his lungs, “Help me”.

I didn’t have fear of blood, but I had never seen someone shot before. I remember the hole in her back was wide and bloody. Her dark hair was matted, tossed over her head as she was slung. Droplets of blood trailed his foot steps as he walked into the ER. It is so vivid all these years later.

They all rushed to help her, I’m sure taking her into a trauma room. I have no clue what the outcome was with the entire situation.

The doctor finally saw me and looked at my head, told my mother I didn’t have a concussion (not so sure about that) and I could go home. I was unimpressed with his clinical skills. Yes, I thought in those terms at ten years old. My mother asked a few questions and I was discharged.

I knew after I fell off my bike that day, laying in my mother’s bed that there was going to be something at that hospital I didn’t want to see. I have had many premonitions in my life. Looking back as a parent now, of course an emergency room visit was the responsible thing to do.

Was this traumatizing at the time for me, yes. I think it did scare me on some level, but the ironic thing was that I felt validated in my mind that I had been correct in my premonition. At ten years old, an adolesant’s mind is not fully developed. How could I have known such an incident was going to happen? There were and are no answers.

One thing I did learn was never to wear flip flops while riding a bicycle.

Through years of trauma and regular life experiences, I have had premonitions that have happened. I don’t share them, I just experience them as if they are a regular parts of my being.

I have learned to listen to myself in situations that present themselves and act accordingly. One must listen to really hear.

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”.

Marcus Aurelius

Summer to Fall by the Sea

I enjoy the change of seasons. Watching the earth change its temperature here in the Northeast has always been my favorite time of the year. The changing colors of the trees and the brisk air makes me happy, it’s that simple.

The sea churns to a new rhythm and gets darker and bigger as the days to winter approach. I prefer the beach in the fall, it’s quiet and seems more alive to me somehow.

As a gardener, I don’t enjoy seeing my perennials go into hibernation. Counting the days until I will see them peaking up next spring and summer, it’s a natural progression. I look forward to seeing my beloved tulips push through the earth in all their glory, given to me one of my dearest friends. She brought them back from her trip to Holland..the land of tulips. Seeds to plants that have now become perennial staples in my garden from Monet’s Garden, Giverney in France. My bleeding heart bush planted in memory of my dear friend Sam. A true gentleman and a friend like no other.

This year due to Covid-19, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get my annuals that accent my garden in delightful colorful unique ways, so I started sowing seeds indoors in March.

I can say this season’s garden was a mixed bag of successes and failures. My annuals did amazingly well, as did my perennials. My vegetable garden did not fare at all. It was quite humid here, tomatoes love the warmth and sun, but they struggled. The herbs were quite happy and produced an abundance of delicious, fresh, fragrant additions to our meals. Pestos were made, some were dried, some were frozen for winter use. Bumper crop indeed. The rest of the garden produced nearly nothing. I don’t look at it as failure, but an effort that just didn’t work. It’s all good to me.

I can say that for the first time in about fifty years, I did have a huge success! My gardenia bloomed multiple times! Funny how something so basic ( although gardenias in the northeast are not easy to maintain) can be so extremely fulfilling.

First Gardenia Bloom (Ever!)
Multiple Gardenia Flowers

As the hot summer progressed the zinnias were happy as were the hydrangeas, sunflowers, daisies, roses, butterfly bushes, etc.

Orange State Fair Zinnia about the fully bloom.
Brilliant Zinnia

I have loved picking my flowers for bouquets in the house. They brighten up our rooms and ground me in their glory.

Hydrangeas from the garden.

Now the plants have gone dormant, the hydrangeas have been picked to dry and planning for next years garden has begun.

The crysanthmums have been planted, the pumpkins show off their bright orange glow and the apple picking has been glorious.

As the leaves turn, I will document the colors with my camera and press some of the most colorful samples in old heavy books as I have done for years. I will watch the ocean at its edge and feel the cold wind pass by like a returning friend. I so enjoy the quiet of the sea in my oneness.

As nature turns us to nurture, I look forward to eating wonderful root vegetables and long cooked savory meals in front of a roaring fire. Baking apples, crumbles and apple cinnamon cakes fill the house with sweet aromas and carried on traditions. We are blessed to have a roof, food and warmth as the season pushes toward winter.

Our home by the sea is filled with gratitude and simple abundance.

Photo by WARREN BLAKE on Pexels.com

All photos except the last one are from my lens.

Frank 2

He came to me on a warm summer evening. It was the beginning of a journey that lasted until I went to him on a brisk October day much like today in the Northeast.

He brought lobster in July, I brought questions in October… ten years later. A complicated path filled with skewed morale compasses that were frenetic. Love grows like a beautiful flower or sometimes like a pesky weed, how do we know which is which? Sometimes weeds are appealing, as we don’t think they are weeds, they are deceiving in their appearance and composition.

The love grew to be real, as deep as the ocean as wide as the sky. A powerful magnet that drew two souls together for a long period of time. We loved too deeply. A dream splintered in numerous directions.

Does telling a story of a past love have any value today? I’m not sure. We are different people now many years later. He is healthier in body so I hear and I am healthier in mind, as I know.

The times we spent tougher are a part of who I was and am today. Interesting how one can remember so vividly things that happened in their past. Some days I can’t remember what I did the day before, but Leo Frank Byron I remember.

to be continued….

Suzanne

Suzanne was a stunning woman about five foot seven in height, short dark thick hair and big brown eyes. She was a classic beauty. Her spirit was full of love, brightness and pure kindness. The kind of attributes that aren’t found often today in so many people I have met.

A mother of four, at the time she stepped onto my path. All were grown and had lives of their own. She loved them equally, two boys and two girls. Her daughters were similar to her beautiful, kind, outgoing and smart. One was a interior designer and one was a nurse. Her sons were a handful, but she did all she could to help them along sometimes to her own detriment. Young men, but sometimes lost boys without a compass.

She was married to a man she loved on some level. Sometimes after thirty odd years of marriage the like fades, the commitment is there but not much else. He was not kind or attentive. He was a lazy man and she was the total opposite. She was one of the hardest working women I had ever met. She had her work, her children and two grandchildren. It was enough she told me.

When I had the good fortune of meeting Suzanne, she was in her early fifties. To this day, I feel she was put on my path to teach me things I hadn’t fully discovered yet.

Some people are so special that once they enter your life it becomes richer and fuller and more wonderful than you ever thought it could be.

I was looking for a house to care for my terminally ill mother and by chance Suzanne came into my life. She was a real estate broker a few towns over. I happened to call her office, set up a meeting and we instantly connected. That doesn’t happen to me often.

I have to say I did put her through the work ringer, as we looked at about fifty homes before I decided on the one I live in today. We looked and looked. Months and months of searching for just the right one. We spent so much time together it had become like meeting a friend..and looking for a house. We grew to know each other and formed a bond like no other.

As fate would have it, my beloved mother died before I found my home. My heart was broken, but I bought a house and made it a home.

Through getting to know Suzanne, I met her family and we spent time together as much as possible with our busy lives. I was single, working , commuting and packing two homes to move into one. She helped me, she came to my parents home and helped me pack their possessions. I donated a lot of my parents belongings. My mother had many friends and some were in need, so they got what they needed, it was as simple as that.

Suzanne told me she had breast cancer about ten years prior to us meeting. She had a double mastectomy. She was a real estate broker and did not have health insurance and took large portions of her commissions to help pay down the balances of her hospital and medical bills. Along with helping her children, she didn’t have much in terms of assets, but the wisdom and grace she had over flowed from every cell of her beautiful body.

She had not gone for her annual check-up with her oncologist, nor did she follow-up with any one of her physicians. “Why”, I asked. It seemed so simple to me, especially coming from a clinical background myself and working in a hospital. Additionally being a caregiver for a parent with lung cancer, on and on… I just couldn’t understand why. To me it seemed so simple. To her it wasn’t.

Suzanne explained that she had an outstanding balance with her physician and was embarrassed to go see him because of it. The balance lingered for years. She followed up with no one. I was astonished. I didn’t give her my opinion, I respected her decision and detected the shame she felt. It was difficult.

A little over two years after our initial meeting, she asked me to meet her in the conference room of the office she owned. I stopped after work, and saw she was pale and serious. Oh how I hated that look. How many times would I see that in my life, that look of illness and bad news to follow. My heart saddened and the adrenaline followed like someone slamming on the brakes of their vehicle just before they hit something. That familiar feeling, again! I felt sick.

Her cancer had returned. This time it was in her bones. She agreed to treatment, chemotherapy. She had no choice, it was aggressive.

She began as an outpatient getting treatments and eventually after the treatments were making her extremely ill, she decided to move into her daughters house for the time she had left.

I would sit by her bed, we would listen to classical music, a soothing melody made the atmosphere almost ethereal. Candles were lit and the glow made ease of the situation in that room. The room was her granddaughters and it was a beautiful pink color, small and cozy with white furniture and floral cotton handmade blankets, the lights always dimmed.

With each visit time vanished and we talked about what life was about. She spoke of how important love was. She told me it’s the only thing that really matters. She spoke of being in love, a true love she had many, many years prior. She told me he came to see her and she was contented by the visit. Their love still existed after so many years apart. It was lovely. I was happy she saw him again, one last time.

She read me some of her favorite poems and bible verses, as I was laying next to her and cried as I knew our time was limited at this point. She spoke about her life and how much she loved her children. How much she loved me in the short time we had become friends. All I could feel was love in that room. We laughed and cried in that beautiful pink room, as cozy and peaceful as a cloud.

I told her I loved her and thanked her for all she had done for me. Giving herself and her time, the wisdom she imparted to me. I told her I would always remember how important love was and promised to never take it for granted.

Suzanne went to the hospital after that night and struggled to let go of the life she so vehemently loved. She had a very hard time. I never saw her again, never heard her voice, never felt her hand on mine. She died in the hospital surrounded by her children. Eight months she lived after her recurrence.

Her funeral was massive, as she was loved by so many. Not a seat in the church. Someone came up to me and told me how much she loved me, it was beautiful. I am forever grateful for Suzanne. Bright, beautiful Suzanne. My friend for such a short block of time on this earth, but more powerful than I could ever express.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Time

As the seasons change here in the Eastern part of the United States it has me thinking about time.

This is what I have experienced and questioned.

As infants time is associated with eating, sleeping, diaper changing, bathing, comfort, love, etc. A menagerie of tasks to sustain life. Parental time during this period of adjustment is a blur as the hours run into each other and sleep deprivation sets in..oh that precious time.

I have read that young toddlers associate time with the gap between seeing and not seeing their parent. (I have found that with puppies also!)

Preteens don’t think about time. When I was young it was all about what time I had to be home, it was when darkness came and street lights shimmered. Time was a luxury we took advantage of, as we used it freely and at will.

Most teenagers think they have all the time in the world. Millennials, from what I have observed rarely think about time. I haven’t seen a watch on a wrist of a teenager or most people, in many years. They use their phone to see what time it is. Things change.

Teens squander their time. Some use it wisely, but from what I have observed most waste it and don’t appreciate the gift it is. They text to communicate spending countless hours on phones, time goes quickly.

Younger people rush their adolescences because they want to drive, drink alcohol, get a job and everything they think comes along with being an adult.

When one is love, most yearn for more time with their partner.

When a loved one is dying we wish for more time with them.

People planning vacations loose sight of the in-between time that comes with everyday living.

People engaged spend time (and money) planning a wedding that lasts for a few hours and waste time after they are married not allotting time to fulfill the dreams they hoped for together.

Those learning in a higher educational setting are “getting through” classes to attain a piece of paper that may entitle them to get the job they want. At such an expense does the time put in ever equal the goal strived for?

Time is the wisest counselor of all– Pericles

Adults who work in mundane jobs wish they were not in those jobs and waste time thinking of the things they should or could be doing differently.

Married couples who have families give up time together because they are working just to live within the boundaries of what society deems a “normal” life.

Wealth does not afford one more time. Comfort yes, time no.

Wishing for more time with someone you love, who does not love you wastes time.

People who have chronic illnesses try to manage their time just to function.

Being with people you really don’t like wastes your time and theirs. I knew someone once who told me she only invites people to her home that she feels comfortable with and truly enjoys their presence. How refreshing!

Terminally ill people can’t waste time, their gift vanishes with every moment that passes.

As we age the aches and pains of our bodies wearing out makes us think, should I manage my time better, can I be happier or is it too late to be healthier?

Mortality spurs thoughts of time.

When we attend a funeral or note that someone has died, adults take inventory of their lives and time.

“Lost time is never found again”. – Benjamin Franklin

During this pandemic time has been recognized more than it ever has in my opinion. It has made us stop and adjust to a restrictive lifestyle. Time hasn’t stopped, we have adapted to new rules. We question how long, how much time must we conform for our health, the health of our community and country.

I think it’s interesting how perspectives changes as we age, if we are fortunate to have time to age.

Time is a gift, perhaps the most precious gift of all. If one makes an attempt to embrace it and not waste it with doubt, worry, abandon or fear it could make a significant difference in longevity. How we use time is up to us.

Music makes time more pleasant for many. Spending time listening to lyrics and melodies can be impactful.

Songs that speak of time spark thoughts of inspiration and emotion, perhaps movement towards spending some of YOUR gift of time exactly how YOU would like to.

“Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce, “Time is On My Side” by The Rolling Stones, “Take Your Time” by Buddy Holly, “Times They Are A-Changin” by Bob Dylan, “Time After Time”, by Cyndi Lauper, ‘Does Anybody Know What Time It Is”, by Chicago, “Time of The Season” by The Zombies, “As Time Goes By” Herman Hupfeld, “Yesterday” by the Beatles, “Wasn’t Expecting That” by Jamie Lawson, “Remember When” by Alan Jackson, “Unchained Melody” by Righteous Brothers, “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand, “Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding, “Time”, by Hootie and The Blowfish, “Somewhere In Time” by John Barry.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

The Gift of Time

Gloria 2

When my mother was sixteen she moved out of her aunts house and in with two of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I was young but keenly aware of the pure loving aura they possessed. It was her Uncle Woody and his wife Kay. Woody was my mothers fathers brother. They had no children of their own. The only people I knew and met from my mother’s side of the family.

It was decided that she would live with them for the remainder of her high school years and go on to college from there. I have no idea how the money worked regarding my mother’s “guardianship”, etc. She moved in with her aunt and uncle that is all I ever have known. From her journal she stated “I knew I had to get out of my domineering aunts house”.

Uncle Woody was a huge man, tall and broad. He reminded me of a big teddy bear. I remember sitting on his lap and the love that poured out of his heart for me was intoxicating. Aunt Kay was a beauty. She was tall and thin, with blondish hair usually in a neat bun. She dressed like a duchess, always perfect lines and crisp collars. Her suits were stunning, shoes matched to perfection. What I remember most is how much they loved my mother. She had been treated poorly by her fathers sister ( no clue what her name was). My mother told me her aunt spent most of the money that was left for her after her parents death, on herself. From her journal “there was just enough money left for me to go to college as my aunt took most of it”.

I can’t image how it felt for my mother to have lived so sadly as a child for six years with someone so cruel, but she had no choice. A common situation found in families back then as well as today. She was smart to advocate a move to go live with Woody and Kay. It was an indication of my mother’s brilliance even at a young age and her resilience to keep pushing forward to make a better life for herself.

She finished high school then went on to college and graduated with her BSN in Nursing. She moved to the town I live in now. She lived just up the street in a beautiful old mansion as a nursing student. It is currently in desperate need of restoration, it is a beautiful place. So many old mansions in our town have been demolished it is sad. She told me it was a great place to live. All girls, one block from the ocean and she felt free. She was an excellent student and graduated at the top of her class. She told me she made lifelong friends there.

While in her senior year she met my father. They dated and soon became engaged. My father couldn’t afford an engagement ring so my grandmother Rebecca gave him hers. A beautiful old European cut round diamond nearly two carats in a plain Tiffany like setting. They were married in the next town over in 1956.

My mother began her career began in the Operating Room at our local hospital. She was a surgical nurse and did private duty in home nursing as well. Ironically my parents lived directly up the street from where I live now. Same street in an old converted horse barn that was restored and made into apartments. It has since burned down, but it was charming.

Operating Room in the 1950’s

My brother was born in 1957 and they lived in that apartment until I was born. They found a house in a rural setting south of my town. My father had gotten a job there so they decided to move. My mother had two children and stayed home until we were school age, I was four years younger than my brother. My father worked six days a week and my mother managed everything.

Our house was a home. It was a place our friends came and didn’t want to leave. My mother worked meticulously on the interior and the exterior. She planned the landscaping, the interior design, the potential for expansion.

The landscaping was lush with iris, roses, mums, azalea, rhododendron, boxwood, english ivy, apple and plum trees. My love for gardening comes from my mother’s example. She edged the lawn with scissors! I hope I have done the same for my son in our home. We live by the sea in a small but cozy home surrounded by roses, cosmos, daisy’s, butterfly bushes, zinnias, mums, boxwood and gardens as lush as mine were growing up. I am so similar to my mother, I have taken on her “let’s change the furniture around” mentality also. Paint, clean, decorate, update. To say I am project orientated is an understatement. What I don’t do is get the paint out to “touch up” the baseboard moldings with scuff marks as she did, but I have inherited her love of home and the people in it.

As our lives evolved, my mother went back to nursing in a local hospital as a floor nurse. During her career there she moved up the ladder and became a Director of Nursing in Pediatrics for many years. A position she told me she loved. She was there many hours as she cared for that unit and those patients like they were family. She would move up from there as the years passed.

My mother had a reputation for being stern and no nonsense, but internally she was kind hearted and loving. I image being a nurse you must create a barrier to the suffering one witnesses, the patients, death, families. Young and old, fast and slow illnesses. Her college yearbook stated “Gloria..as calm as a hurricane”.

As her story continues, her life presented many challenges. She was first diagnosed with degenerative arthritis at the age of forty-four, lupus at forty-five and lung cancer at forty-eight.

The battle begins. to be continued…

Frank

“Your eyes were bluer then robin’s eggs”, a song lyric from Joan Baez’s classic album Diamonds and Rust. A description of a man, who stepped on my path when I was nineteen years old.

There will be several continuances of the story of Frank, as he was a huge part of the person I was and the man I loved for a very long time.

It is impossible to encapsulate the nearly ten years of being with Frank into several blog stories. My hope is it can be a relationship yield sign, metaphorically. A real look into how a deep love and attraction can be complicated bliss until it isn’t. This all mixed with alcoholism, drugs, power, fantasies, families, children, heartbreak, secrets and unfulfilled promises. to be continued….

My Grandmother’s Kitchen

If you are fortunate to have a grandmother, treasure the moments you have together as they won’t last. They will become, as mine have, golden memories of love, learning and life lessons.

Throughout my blog there will be stories about Rebecca, my grandmother. She had an interesting ninety-seven years on this planet, but this story is about her kitchen.

When she was very young around 1910, she began observing her mother in my great grandmother’s New York apartment kitchen. She told me all the other kids would go out to play and she would stay behind with her mother to bake. My great-grandfather sold fruits and dried goods from his horse driven cart. For a family of 12 there was baking everyday. All the experience she handed down to me is from one kitchen to another. In my opinion, the best way to learn is hands on…literally. Let the flour fly!

The first kitchen I remember as a child was my grandmothers. You would think it would be my mother’s, as she was an amazing cook. She could cook, but bake…ahhh nope. She would be the first to say she wasn’t a “baker”. Needless to say all my school cupcakes and treats were purchased, I didn’t mind.

Nan as I called my grandmother, was a short woman, a bit on the stocky side and had strong hands. Being a baker all her life, that would make sense. She always wore a cotton apron with pockets in the front and tied in the back. Her sister Jean made them for her. She only had vision in one eye as she had an eye surgery go terribly wrong and the physician blinded her ( No one sued in those days). She wore glasses and always had a soft cloth in between her glasses and her right eyelid.

Nans first kitchen (that I remember) was located towards the back of the old Victorian house they lived in when I was very young. There were square transom windows at the top of a giant glass window framing the trees in the backyard. The side windows opened for fresh air and a possible breeze from the ocean one block away. The table always had a table cloth on it and was directly under that beautiful window. The cabinets were wood painted white. The stove was gas and the sink was white porcelain. It was always clean and tidy.

The kitchen wasn’t big, but it was a magical place where I loved to be. There were old Yellowware pottery bowls, old green pottery bowls, vintage pyrex nesting sets, tools with wooden red and green handles, wooden rolling pins in all sizes. An old tin percolator coffee pot was always on the stove, left back corner when not in use. The baking pans were some of her mothers and some she had stored in the pantry all of my life. It was a maze of baking heaven for me. I instinctively knew when a certain pan had been taken out, exactly what treat we would be having that afternoon or for dessert that evening. The excitement was palpable.

The lingering aromas of cinnamon and fresh yeast wafted through the air in my Nan’s house. You knew it was going to be a great day when cinnamon was the first aroma you smelled as you walked through her front door. What astounded me was the variety of baked goods my grandmother could produce. One little lady making bagels, onion rolls, butter horns ( a form of cinnamon roll with or without raisins), hamantaschen ( a triangular shaped filled delight), regular cookies, blitzes, cakes and pastries. Her cheese danish were like heaven on a plate.

She also made speciality treats, she was Jewish and when the holidays rolled around so did the rugelach, babka, teiglach, honey cake, sponge cake, mandelbrot and the best fresh apple cinnamon cake ever.

I don’t think I ever saw her use granulated yeast. A luxury we bakers use today for its convenience. It was always fresh block yeast she got from a local bakery. She would walk, she never drove a vehicle her entire life. When she started to prepare for the delicacy “we” would making, she would gather all the ingredients first, then after her morning coffee, we would begin. If it were rolls or bread we were making I knew it was going to be a long day in the kitchen. That was fine with me, we were happy and it was fun being together. Just us, my grandfather was working and we had the entire day to bake! With all the experience she had, she knew the outcome she wanted. She baked until she was ninety-six, so it was a total of about ninety-one years of getting it just right.

As I helped get the ingredients ready, she would guide me along, as if I were taking on the process myself. In a kosher kitchen it’s a bit more difficult to navigate as items are separate from each other according to jewish orthodox law. In this kitchen the dairy and meat were kept apart from each other. Separate everything, similar to having two kitchens within one. I would make mistakes all the time. She would gently correct me, never raising her voice. Even when I became an adult, I still at times used the wrong fork or pot, she would again correct me some forty years later. I smile now thinking about it. What I would give to go over to her kitchen now and make a “mistake”.

For bread or rolls we would make the dough, put it in an old pottery bowl place a clean dishcloth on top and let it rise. The smell of the yeast was delicious. The process of making breads, onion rolls, “hard” rolls was not an easy one. Patience and strength were needed. I learned to kneed fresh dough on that kitchen table with my Nan beside me. She would step in for a “feel”. I used flour on the long wooden rolling pin so the dough wouldn’t stick and worked the dough just as she instructed me to. I was learning how to get the dough right in terms of consistency, elasticity and texture.

We would shape the dough into certain pans, or single pieces for rolls, etc. It sat to rise again, egg wash after, sprinkle with whatever she wanted, then bake. The result would always be terrific. They say it is science to bake properly. To cook one can “a little this and a little that”, but baking is a craft that demands precision. She had it and taught me how to get it.

When we made sweet things, I think the family had more anticipation for the goodies. They took the rolls and breads for granted. After a while it was exhausting for my gram, but she still produced the goods when needed throughout the years.

The sugar was stored in a tin canister with a black lid and a scoop inside. Always white granulated sugar, I think it was Domino brand. One thing about my gram was she always used the best ingredients. She did not have much money, and if she couldn’t get what she needed she would wait until she could. The raspberry and apricot jams for the hamantaschen would be homemade or if she didn’t have any she would occasionally used jarred. She would make fillings of poppy seeds and sweet honey. My personal favorite lekvar, a prune filling she would sometimes mix with red raspberries and walnuts. Pitted prunes were stewed first then mixed with raspberries..sometimes walnuts were thrown in for fun.

This simple dough of eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla, baking powder, vegetable oil and the rind of an orange this was absolute best. A quite versatile dough, as it stood up to mistakes and small girls learning how to roll it out properly! The scraps were used to make my father ( her son) hardtac cookies. They were a plain cookie, round in shape sometimes sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked off. He loved them and Nan always seemed to make a few for dad every time we made that dough.

The cheese, cherry, blueberry danish, crumb cakes, babka, cinnamon rolls, honey cake, blintzes and holiday specialities were all lovingly created one by one. They were not made in the biggest kitchens, but the most magical ones because she was the baker. The pantries were filled with everything she needed to create anything she wanted on a given day. Always an early morning start. Her passion for baking came from her mother’s guidance, patience and love for the process and the delectable end result.

What I learned from her kitchen was that if someone has passion for what they are doing anyone can learn, or be taught from that passion. Some of my best days were spent with my grandmother in her kitchen. Laughing over (me) spilling something or getting flour all over the floor, all over us! Smelling the fresh coffee percolating in anticipation of it being joined with a butter horn made from fresh yeast dough we created together. Warm cinnamon buns dripping with icing just waiting to be dug into with glee. Rolls that were crisp on the outside and fluffy soft on the inside. Braided challah bread slathered with butter for breakfast, then used for amazing French toast the next day was a norm.

There is nothing that could replace those baked goods today. There were no chemicals or additives, simply fresh ingredients and the love of baking. That taste or smell can’t be recreated. I try, but it never tastes the same as Nan’s. When I bake, I get a hint of scent that brings me back to her kitchen and that makes me happy.

How fortunate I was to have her. To learn from her experience and wisdom. That kitchen was my classroom not only for learning how to bake, but for learning life lessons. She taught me much more than baking in her kitchen.

No Matter Where I Serve My Guests It Seems They Like My Kitchen Best

The remains of Nan’s cutting board that hung on the wall in the kitchen and her favorite wooden rolling pin, that sits in my baking pantry today.

Divorcing a Child

How does a family once whole, now separate, continue? In our case it didn’t.

When I got divorced, I went to court with shared custody as part of my plan for my nine year old son. I had reservations about custody, but I felt at the time it was the right thing to do.

We tried to build a family as all new parents do. I was pregnant one month after we said “I do”. Art’s family was large, he was the oldest of five siblings. They were all close in age and have many of the same tendencies psychologically. Their extended family included aunts, uncles and cousins in large numbers.

My family had passed. I brought friends to my marriage. They were my family. I always thought is was easier on my ex-husband because he didn’t have to deal with anyone representing my side. I can say proudly, my friends did indeed step up when things got way out of hand ( that is another blog story).

I can say this, if my parents were alive and witnessed our marital challenges they would have most definitely interceded. But then without a doubt, I wouldn’t have my son. A son that means the world to me.

I was welcomed into the in-law household and family of seven. They initially presented themselves as a model clan. I did see a domineering father, alcohol issues, and a family structure that seemed off balance. I later found out there was abuse and a host of other damaging things this family hid. Only to be unraveled as time went by.

I was taken into the family kitchen a few years into my relationship by my mother in-law to be Margaret. She told me that I should really “think” about marrying her son. She intimated it could be difficult. I took her words and put them in a place I returned to often throughout our relationship. Mothers always know their sons the best. I think she knew she had no affect on me and professed that she “was gaining another daughter” when I agreed to marry her eldest son. Believe me, another daughter she didn’t need.

His mother was very devout religiously. She attended church daily, was raised by strict Catholic rules and lived her life accordingly. She had two sisters, Helen and Barbara. After Margaret told me she wouldn’t be attending my wedding because I wasn’t Catholic, her sister Barbara called me one day out of the blue. She told me my wedding to her nephew would not be a real wedding because we were not being married by a priest in a church. She explained any children we would have would in her view, would be illegitimate. She staunchly declared she would NOT be attending. Her sister Helen just never responded to her invitation. Margaret eventually changed her mind and did attend the wedding.

During my marriage she would send me letters of her concern about my faith and values. She wrote that because (she felt) I wasn’t praying enough and her son didn’t have the faith he should, that was the reason for the discord within our union. She mentioned Novena’s or the lack of.

My son was born and it was a happy day. Oh how I missed my mother. One of my best friends, Pam was in my mother’s place in the delivery room. She was and is an amazing woman. She was well aware of the dynamics of my relationship with my husband and his family. I trusted her with my life, as I knew my husband wasn’t really paying attention in that labor room.

The evening we brought my son home from the hospital, my husband’s brother was getting married. He went to the wedding and I called Pam to come stay with me until he returned. I had no clue what I was doing. She was a mother, a good mother and knew what to do. I repeatedly called my husband to come home, he ignored me.

They had all kinds of family gatherings, Christmas, birthdays, celebrations, the works! Art’s sister Mary took care of my son when I first returned to work a few days a week. She loved my son and I appreciated what she did. They embraced him and loved him. She had three children of her own so it was a house that was fun.

I was diagnosed with severe post pardum depression. Pam lived forty-five minutes away and worked as a busy clinical social worker. I felt I had no one. My husband would go to work and I would be alone with my new baby. I eventually sought treatment, got medication and after about a year I began to feel brighter and better.

Throughout my marriage things were always pensive. I never knew what my husband’s personality would be walking through the front door when he came home from work. I returned to work and it was a balance act as many parents know. As the years went by Art became more and more detached from us. He would eat dinner then go off by himself.

He explained to me prior to marriage that he had turned away from his church as he didn’t believe in structured religion. He did attend an all Catholic grade school, high school and a Jesuit college. He said he believed religion was a cult.

As my son grew up it was more often than not just the two of us. We got a cockapoo puppy. She was love at first sight and to this day! His father would try to engage with his son. He went with us too little league baseball games, he was an assistant coach for a while. He was so caught up in his own mind that there was little room for a child, not to mention a wife.

Growing up at his family’s dinner table the children were not permitted to speak. I foolishly thought when we had dinner or a meal, he would change and have a conversation. He talked when we were dating, why the switch? That all ended after we were married. In my childhood home we discussed everything at dinner. I wasn’t used to silence. We would go out to diner as a married couple and he would not say one word throughout the entire meal. He spoke to the waitress and ordered his meal, but nothing after that. When we got in the car to come home he would say what a great time he had. It really makes one question their own mind when this occurs. I saw dangerous things beginning to happen. Red flags began popping up as my son grew older.

So the decision to divorce came after things in the house had gotten to a point of no return. My son was eight years old and heard things no child should have. The last argument we had, my son heard and I was sick about it. I asked Art to leave the house, he would not.

During an argument I was told “God is going to punish you!” I said, “I don’t believe in a God who punishes people”. He retorted and said these words that truly ended it all for me. He said, “You don’t believe that huh, look at what happened to six million Jews!” My son was in my bedroom, we were in the hallway arguing and he heard it all. He asked me that night, “Mommy can we get a lock for this bedroom door, can I stay in here with you tonight?”

Art never showed up to court, so by our state laws he defaulted. I got full custody and he got supervised visitations upon court approval. It was a difficult day. Pam was with me as I had to call him at work and tell him we were legally divorced. The court papers still sitting on his nightstand indicating the court date and other important information. I refer to him as my son throughout this story as that is how I have felt for some time. Of course he has a father, but a non participating father doesn’t really “count” to me. I have never said anything disparaging to my son about his father, I never saw the point. He would grow up and come to his own conclusions.

Over the next ten years, my son has seen his father approximately fifteen times. He lives one block east of our house. Not one family member has ever called our home, sent birthday cards, made any effort to contact him in any way. He went to a few Christmases, I can’t even remember the years. His grandfather had passed but his grandmother, alive and well never remembers how old he is. When she would on occasion send him a card, it would go to my ex-husband’s address, be opened then get forwarded to our house. I never really understood that. His father sent him birthday cards in the regular mail.

So you get married, have a child and become part of your husbands extended family for fourteen years. You help them as in-laws, support them whenever asked, attend family functions, weddings, funerals, etc. Then your husband’s sister moves in with you because her parents through her out with her baby. (They stayed for over a year) Bonds are formed. Facades are built.

One entire family consisting of about 20 close relatives just drop your child from their collective lives. No contact, love or family interaction. Silence since the age of nine. My name is primarily on the divorce papers, ( my divorce) except for the college part…wanna guess how that has gone financially regarding support?

Now I think it’s just how it all turned out. I have been a single mother for a very long time and we manage well. I have no control over anyone’s actions except my own. You can’t force a family to love a child. Who knows what damage has been done psychologically to him because of their actions or non-actions. They all collectively just stopped their relationship with a nine year old child who is now nineteen. He takes it in stride, he sees his father on his own terms now, one block away. I don’t interfere, I just watch and listen. I’m here if he needs me.

Bonds are broken, it happens all the time. There is enough damage done when a family brakes and a divorce occurs. To abandon a child, distance a family, ignore a life, is a division that will resonate for a lifetime.

Divorcing a child is sad.

Photo by Alex Smith on Pexels.com

Lauretta 2

Lauretta has been a constant source of inspiration to me from the beginning of our amazing friendship. We are of different faiths, she is Catholic and I’m not. She has taught me more about religion than any book, bible, or clergy. I would ask her questions about her faith, her devotion to her beliefs and get answers that made so much sense to me. During some of my darkest days with her at my side, she always reminded me to have faith.

Photo by Jonas Ferlin on Pexels.com

When my mother was so ill with cancer I lost my faith. She would remind me in her calm caring way about faith. It was a struggle for me during those fourteen years of being my mother’s primary caregiver trying to have any semblance of a higher power. I prayed, but I thought it wasn’t heard. Now I realize twenty-five years later that it was heard. I had fourteen years with my mother as horrid as it was for us, but there were “breaks” in between the surgeries and struggles. Humor and laughter tangled itself in the sadness, exhaustion and pain, as the patient and the caregiver. Funny how retrospect works.

Lauretta had her share of illness, back issues, surgeries along the way. She persevered. We watched some of our dearest friends and coworkers pass away. We mourned and went to pay our respects together. When one of our family members passed we grieved as the days passed. We supported each other when the waves of anguish overtook us. At this time in our long friendship it was a given that solace and comfort were assets we possessed whenever they were needed. I have always thought how fortunate we are to have met. To have bonded like family ( some families).

Charlie and Lauretta loved to travel. Now retired they took wonderful trips to places she always wanted to go. Charlie was more like me happy to be home, not keen on traveling, but Lauretta’s enthusiasm got him going. And he was always happy he went. They met some of the nicest people along the way, some have become friends. They sat in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris ( before the devastating fire). They walked along the endless tulip fields in Amsterdam. Went to Monet’s garden, Giverney ( brought me back lavender seeds for my garden that thrive today). Ate Wiener Schnitzel in Germany. Walked the sacred streets within the Vatican. Amazed at the grandeur of the Canadian Rockies. Took train rides through America and saw the majesty of our beautiful country. Many beautiful excursions over the years. She is my geographical expert. If I ever have a question about the location of a place, worldwide, I don’t Google it, I call Lauretta!

About two years ago Lauretta went to the dentist for a regular visit. They saw “something” on the x-ray. Lauretta had cancer. My heart hurt. But with todays medicine and the advances that have been made clinically, I leaned on the facts not the emotions. I knew if I gave into how I really felt, it would destroy any progress I had made in how I thought about cancer. And I prayed.

Philadelphia was the location of her multitude of physicians..her “team”. She got second and third opinions as any smart patient would. Her surgery was extensive to say the least. Her jaw had to be resected to remove the mass. They had to take a piece of bone from her leg to reconstruct her jaw. We waited for hours with Charlie, her sister and brothers. Her sons came later in the evening as we knew the surgery would take many hours.

I was no stranger to surgical waiting rooms. I had sat in so many over the course of my days, it was all too familiar. The uncomfortable chairs, the TV on a station that was obtuse. The newspapers other people had read and tossed, the outdated magazines. I always wanted to write a letter to the CEO of each hospital surgical waiting room I had an experience in and let them know my thoughts about “their” facility. I wanted to make suggestions/recommendations for more comfortable seating, more soothing artwork, anything to aid in the waiting for a loved one having a procedure. The coffee or tea offerings are repulsive, with their fake condiments and poison additives. Let’s make the visitors and families sick while they wait. Fish tanks are popular now in waiting rooms. Just doesn’t cut it for me. And the phone, oh that phone on the desk or wall where they call you to either update you on the status of the patient or say the doctor is ready to see you. I hated that phone.

She made it through the surgery and as Charlie walked me into her room, I saw Lauretta. Not the tens of tubes doing their job, not the swelling of her face, neck, hands and toes. Not her leg that was wrapped in roll upon roll of white gauze. I saw my dearest friend sitting up, quite loopy but ok for that moment in time. I cried. I took her hand and told her how proud I was of herI kissed her forehead as a reminder she was surrounded by love. I knew her road too full recovery would be a long one. A recovery that would include Radiation and Chemotherapy.

I thank God for Charlie and her family. Her sons stepped up for their mother. They did anything that needed to be done, as did their wives. I thought this is how a healthy family unit comes together and functions for one of their own. I was and am so proud of all of them. Not an easy task. I have learned through caregiving for very sick people, the family structure is vital to a patient’s successful recovery physically and mentally.

I will not minimize Lauretta’s recovery journey that still exists today. She has overcome adversity because of this cancer like a champion. She tells me her faith has helped in the positive progress she has made. It goes without saying that her family and some friends have played essential roles in her health today. She goes for chemo treatments every four weeks now, second round. Has regular pet scans to monitor small growths in her body and to rule out any additional issues. She has difficulty with tasting food and sinus issues, BUT she is ok right now and that’s all we really have. She draws strength from her inner core, her family, her faith. She pushes forward like a warrior against an enemy.

If not for Lauretta’s influence and support in my life I would not be the person I am today. Faith and friendship have sustained us. We have laughed at so many things from the start, she always says I’m the only one who gets her jokes. We have golden memories we share about silly things, like sheet cakes, decorating our “patient room” hospital office bathroom and taking way too long lunch breaks to play Canasta in the break room! What we have is a bond that has gotten stronger over the decades.

Through all she has endured she always makes time for me, no matter how she is feeling or where she is. My life has been diverse and filled with loss, hospitals, hospice, caregiving, single parenting, lost love, troubled ex-husbands, troubled ex in-laws and my own illnesses. Lauretta ( and Charlie) have always been there.

Lauretta is a solid presence. Through all she has endured she is a survivor not only from a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in her body, but of life in general terms. She is a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, sister, aunt, cousin and friend.

Anyone fortunate enough to be on Lauretta’s path in this life is blessed by her presence. The life lessons she has shared with me throughout our friendship are anchors that keep me stable when needed. What are the odds of meeting someone randomly at a job interview and maintaining a lifelong friendship? Odds are slim I think. What brought us together? What has kept us together? Why was she with me the on the unexpected evening my mother was in distress and dying and no one could reach me?

I saw a shooting star in the darkened sky the night my mother passed, I had just left being with Lauretta. As I was getting on the parkway about a half a mile from my mother’s hospital room, I thought should I go see her to kiss her good night as she seemed different when I left her a few hours before. I said to myself, no I will see her bright and early in the morning. That wasn’t how it happened. At that very moment she was dying. I never saw her again, the person I loved most on this planet was leaving just as I saw the shooting star. I take comfort in the memory of being with Lauretta that evening. I think now that was how it was supposed to happen all along.

Gratitude. Faith. Trust. Friendship.

A Woman of Substance