I’m sorry, mom

I owe my mother-in-law an apology.

I understand now, but I didn’t then. Back then I was young, so very young. I was so wrapped up in the present that I couldn’t see. I held you responsible, but you were just giving me space and didn’t want to intrude. Looking back, I wish you had been a little more assertive. I had no idea the ache in your heart my inaction was causing you. And I’m really sorry.

If I could go back in time and change things, please know that I would. Hindsight has me guessing that might be part of the reason why you weren’t as warm with me as I wanted; aside from taking away your only child, your only son. You were never one for discussing feelings, or your history from The Old Country during the war. I am glad I felt genuine affection for you over the years.

You are gone now, going on 13 years. The children have faint memories of you, and most are from the last few when dementia was robbing you from us so quickly. Sonny Boy, being the oldest, has the most. And his are hazy. Sweat Pea and Sugar Bug have few. All that remains are pictures.

Oh, the pictures! I’m sorry I didn’t have any, or many to share. Or was too selfish to just give you what I had. I always forgot when we went out, which is true. My personal (internal) defense was that I (we) couldn’t afford getting duplicates most of the time. That is also true. We really didn’t have much extra.

So I’m sorry.

I had no idea the joy you had in being a Grandma. You didn’t want to be Oma, because that word was from a world and lifetime away. This was your home, so Grandma it would be.

I had no idea the love a grandma had, or could have. I had no idea how much your heart ached to not see the kids like you wanted. I had no idea at how astonishingly fast grandbabies grow. Or how much their smiles, coos, and chatter could make my own heart explode with love, joy and pride.

I now know why you gave so many full-body hugs to squirmy toddlers. And you kissed those precious chubby cheeks any chance you had.

So I’m sorry, Mom, for not having more pictures and not giving you more time with them. I’m sorry for the unintentional pain. I wish I could fix that, change things, do better.

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Wind in the Trees of Summers Past

I can hear the wind in the trees tonight.

It’s a comforting and comfortable sound filled with memories of nights spent at my grandparents cottage on Lake Michigan. They bought their lot in the early 1960s, long before lakefront property ownership has the status and cost it has now. It may have been a status thing back then as well. Who knows. That part of reality was far beyond my childhood scope.

Grandma and Grampa built their cottage themselves. For Grampa it was always a work in progress, each summer something was added, adjusted, or finished. I remember being a little girl waiting for the time when I would be old enough to sleep in a real bed and not in a sleeping bag on a mattress in the eaves. They were big eaves — big enough for three twin mattresses to lay side-by-side with just enough room to spare for us to sit and get dressed. The eaves were carpeted but the trusses were exposed. The rolled pink insulation batting with the Pink Panther on it was right there for us to touch. Grampa sternly warned us not to touch it and especially not to poke holes in it. We were little, and Grampa was a very large man with a very big voice, even by adult’s standards. We knew not to defy Grampa’s rules at the cottage. Sssh, don’t tell, but we did touch the paper backing on the insulation anyway just gently enough to hear the paper crinkle a little bit. I felt so brazen and rebellious.

On those hot summer nights the windows in the upstairs bedrooms would be open to catch any kind of breeze with hopes we would have a cool night’s sleep. This was nearly impossible being in sleeping bags in the eaves though. On the hottest nights we, my sisters and I and whichever of my cousins who may have been there, would lay very still on top of everything with a wet wash cloth neatly folded on our foreheads to try to cool us. It didn’t always work.

But back to the wind.

A summer wind has a different kind of sound to it. I think that may be because of the leaves. Or the warmer air. Maybe it’s both. This wind is the kind that brings a change in the weather. It’s the sort that lets windchimes dance a two-step instead a slow waltz. It is the kind sucks curtains to their screens on one side of the house while it makes the blinds jump about on the windowframe. At the cottage though there were few other sounds besides that of the waves on the lake at night. Once in a while we could hear an owl hoot or a fox yip up in the dunes. Otherwise it was quiet.

Except for the sound in the trees.

Loving, even when you want to say, Screw it!

Loving, even when you want to say, Screw it!

Today is my birthday. And without spilling a lot of beans, I just gotta say: it kinda sucked. Like, really, truly, bit me in the ass, sucked. I swore out loud in public, sucked.** I’m not looking for a pity party; God knows I can throw my own well enough for myself without sending out invites.

But here’s the thing … People are who and what they are because of things inside and outside of your control. What I mean is: maybe you screwed up royally, or maybe someone else did. Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn’t, as to who and what mucked up part of someone else’s life. (By “it matters” I don’t want to suggest it was insignificant or inconsequential. If someone is causing a scene the root cause is not ever insignificant to them.) And sometimes the bite comes back with a lot of venom. And it stings. Sometimes people are ready to bite at things even when they shouldn’t because of displaced responsibility.

So love the hurting, even if it hurts you; even if the hurt ones maim you (emotionally) back, rightfully and deservedly so, or not. Perhaps part of someone else’s healing will come through the venom they need to unleash.

I don’t mean to suggest you dutifully accept the spew and say, Whateva. Because, clearly, this is not a “whatever” kind of moment. When something has you so emotionally distraught, spent, and wrung out you feel physically ill, it is not Whatevs. How you react and respond may speak volumes more than just getting loud. Anyone can get loud. Loud is what newborns do because that know nothing else to get their problems solved. Quiet and steady are what conflict needs. It also needs genuine remorse, contrition, and willingness to forgive for something to be resolved. Again, maybe the conflict is result of your own doing, or someone or something else. Maybe it was recent or years ago when this hurt occurred.

If you messed up, own up to it. If it was another person’s doing, react with empathy. You are a flawed person dealing with someone else equally flawed. Be gentle, and love them anyway.

**I am generally opposed to swearing, cussing and foul language in general. It rarely serves any purpose, and frequently displays a lack of creativity from the one turning the air blue and making sailors blush.

Turmeric Tonic — A Review

In last month’s subscription box from The Tea Spot I got a sample of Turmeric Tonic. A circle of friends has spoken hightly of this so I was looking forward to giving it a tasting.

A quick internet search on the benefits of turmeric will turn up several sites. I recommend you do some research on your own. I won’t take the time here to get into all those details, as there are many.

When I opened the package I got a strong scent of ginger and spices. If you like Chai teas, you will definitely love this one. I think it tastes more like what I expect a Chai to taste like. I can’t ever remember tasting turmeric plain. It’s in the ginger family and is harvested as a root. Its golden orange color is growing in familiarity, though most often known for giving Indian and Thai food its golden yellow hue. It’s not to be confused with saffron, another spice known for giving foods a yellow color, which comes from the stamens of a certain crocus flower grown in Spain.

Because this is an herbal, plant based tea you need to steep it longer than leaf based teas in order to rehydrate the dried ginger, turmeric and other spices. I don’t think there is a way for it to get too strong through over steeping. Please note, that since this uses real dried ingredients you will have solids in the bottom of your pot or mug. If you don’t want a mouthful at the end, or don’t like the grittiness of it, stir or swirl your mug before taking a drink. This way you’ll get a little at a time and won’t notice it nearly as much. If having solids in your tea is something you don’t like, you can still enjoy this tea. Just let it settle, and sip carefully so as not to disturb it, and leave the last large gulp in your cup. If you keep a kitchen composter pour it in there. (Do not do this if you’ve used any kind of artificial sweetener in your tea.)

The first cup I followed the directions of one rounded measuring teaspoon per 8 oz of water. I thought this was quite strong with ginger, almost to the point of being spicy hot. The second time I used one level teaspoon for 10 oz of water. It was much more pleasant and didn’t leave a lingering ginger “burn” on my tongue. I prefer my teas sweet and experimented with how much I felt the tea could tolerate before all you tasted was sweet and not the tea. So if you sweeten yours, start out in small amounts and taste as you go, especially if you add milk.

This would make an excellent latte if you want to take the extra steps. I cheated and warmed milk in the microwave, and didn’t bother with any foam. Either version, plain or with milk, this tea warms you from the inside out. It will be a regular addition to my cold weather tea rotation. I’m curious to know how it goes as an iced tea. If you try it, let me know.

The deep amber liquor of Turmeric Tonic.

Resolutions vs Joy Multiplied

Resolutions vs Joy Multiplied

New Year, New You!

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? It’s a topic of conversation the week before and after January 1 every year, whether it be around the office water cooler or a friend’s social media feed. Headline: Resolutions, Yes …or No?  I have never really put much stock into make a resolution.  One year I resolved to not. Make a resolution that is.

Last year was pretty tough for me; I know I’m not alone.  The year wasn’t a knock-down-drag-out kidney punch and body slam kind of year.  While it had those moments it was more akin to a blister on your heel, and you can’t change your shoes — ever. If you moved slowly, gingerly everything was okay. And when you couldn’t, it hurt like hell. To garner your sympathy I could write a litany of all the things that went cock-eyed, topsy turvy and full-on upside down in 2017.  But I won’t.  That’s not the point.

These past couple of months I was wont to find some kind of peace with myself, my depression, my health, my year.  And the Spirit of the season began to wrest a little with my heart.  There were these little nudges, these reminders that others were sharing on social media, which individually seemed innocuous, but together made something glaringly clear.  I had no JOY. None.

Joy is not like happiness. Happiness is relative.  It is dependant on outside factors and stimuli.  You can fake happiness. You can’t fake joy.  Joy comes from deep inside. It can not be manufactured, only multiplied.  It was then the Spirit lit an ember.

A few days ago a friend messaged me about trying an Episcopal church after a painful season of anger after being hurt by the church.  I reminded my friend (again) that it wasn’t God who caused this pain, it was the flawed people in the church who did.  Then, then, I had a realization.

I realized I had not been practicing what I was preaching. For the first time in years the notion of letting go of past church hurts went from my head to my heart.  I’ve known all along the hurt I felt was caused by the people I went to church with.  They knew I stopped attending.  What they didn’t know was that it was they who drove me away.  I knew forgiving was what I needed to do.  A lifetime of attending church told me that’s what needed to be done.  I knew there was that plank in my eye.  And I was quite content to smack people around with it rather than get rid of it.  Except the only one hurt by my plank-stuffed eye was me.   I wanted to keep shaking my fist, saying ‘See what you’ve done! And you don’t even know it! HA!  I’ll show you’ and I stayed away.

But …I am tired of staying away.  I’m tired of empty and hollow, of clinging.

Resolutions are our way of saying “I’m going to do better.”  The problem is most of us don’t know how.  I certainly don’t.  Rather than make resolutions I know I will fail at,  I have chosen three Focus Words for 2018. My hope is that by living these words throughout the year many aspects and areas of my life will improve.

Consistency

(be) Present

Joy

I don’t want a new me.  I want a renewed me.

The ember is starting to grow.

Diabetes, and Helplessness

Diabetes, and Helplessness

Our youngest is diabetic, diagnosed just after she turned 10. She’ll be 20 a week from tomorrow — yup, Christmas Eve. This has been her burden for half her life. She spent two nights inpatient this week with complications, and came home last night. She missed two days of work because of it. I brought her to work this morning. I was still in the parking lot returning a phone call when she comes back out in tears.

She lost her job because a text to her boss didn’t get received. She was in the 90 days probationary period, and they have zero tolerance for no call/no shows. Her boss said they consider it a “voluntary resignation” and had to send her home. There is nothing they can do as it’s a strict policy.

I get that. But I am equally mad at her and mad for her, because she didn’t double check her message was received, and because this blasted disease cost her a good job. I was never a helicopter parent with our other two, but I am when it comes her and her diabetes. I want to go in there, give them a serious what-for and severe tongue lashing, but I can’t. She’s an adult, and this is a very hard pill to swallow. And it sucks! I can not fix this, and I can not fix her; as her mother I feel helpless and I hate it.

November Subscription Box, a review

November Subscription Box, a review

I recently subscribed to a monthly subscription box from The Tea Spot. November was the first ever delivery as the company just started the program, so I got in right at the very start. I tried the teas in order of least likely to ever buy, saving my obvious favorite for last. The teas and blends were put together to celebrate the time of year and holiday season. These are my thoughts.This is a long read as there were five teas in the box.

Candied Chestnut :: On opening the pouch I inhaled deeply, caught my breath and repeated, not knowing what to expect. Then I sniffed a little. First impression: definitely, this has a nut fragrance and flavor to it. I’m not a fan of nuts in general, never eat whole almonds, and am allergic to cashews. I absolutely loathe peanut butter. The name alone nearly earned it negative marks from the start. The scent has an earthy, slightly smoked and almost woody note to it. I imagined it smelled exactly as a freshly roasted chestnut would, or should, seeing as they can only be opened by being put to high heat. (The line in the carol isn’t fibbing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” And now the song is now an earworm in your head.)

Now, on to the flavor. The foundation in this is a white tea, sweetened with Jasmine petals. Plain white tea is prob’ly my least preferred of all tea options. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the overall steeped liqueur in my mug after reading the label, because Americans drink tea and coffee in big 16oz (0.5L) mugs, not little porcelain cups, unless it’s a special occasion. My initial thoug)ht was, “Okay, bland with flowers. And it’s supposed to be a nut tea? If they say so.”

I was pleasantly pleased, much to my surprise! The chestnut flavor was present enough to say, “Hello friend. I’ve just come from the open fire,” but not so much it made this anti-nut person gag, which I was half expecting to happen. Seriously. I always sweeten my tea so I tried a few unsweetened sips first, letting the flavors sit on my tongue. The earthy, bitter flavor definitely came through. If dirt had a flavor I thought this might be it. But wait. I added a little sweetener, a mix of stevia and Splenda. And the dirty bitterness disappeared, leaving behind what would be a tea for nut, and outdoors lovers would want. Thinking on it now if anything but white tea were used in this blend the flavor would have been awful, being overpowered by the base notes of the tea itself. I will finish the pouch in the shipment, but it’s highly unlikely I would buy more for my personal tea stash.

Pumpkin Spice Chai :: I put aside my feelings for pumpkin, and my opinions of the basic white girl fad of pumpkin spice, to give this a try. The first smells were the delicious sweetness of the spices. I like cinnamon, allspice and cloves in small doses, and preferably sweetened ones, like cookies. I was expecting to be bowled over with cinnamon and ginger, and it didn’t happen. A little is a good thing; what usually happens is that the makers think there needs to be a lot. Authentic chai can be very heavy on ginger and peppercorns, so much so it can burn the tastebuds and stomach. These were barely detectable by smell. As for the pumpkin itself I had to take several deep inhalations to be convinced there was actually pumpkin in there. I was beginning to think this wouldn’t be so bad. Authentic, original Chai is always made with a black tea base and the seasonings, flavors and spices are added according to one’s personal tastes, or health needs. Chai has long been considered medicinal in the regions where it originated.

I made my mug and again tried it unsweetened. It you like unsweetened tea, this would have been very good as it stood. I could not taste pumpkin at all in these first sips. I added my sweetener blend and the pumpkin started to come through. I really enjoyed this tea. It wasn’t too heavy on any of the added flavors, balancing each just right. I think it would be altogether different and delicious with a hot milk of your choice added. You may want to steep it longer or use more tea to make it stronger before making it as a chai latte, otherwise you might taste only milk.

Clouds and Mist :: The name alone evokes images of grand mountains of Asian mystique, doesn’t it? I’ve only recently begun drinking quality green tea so my experience with the different varietals has been limited. If you’ve been drinking boxed, bagged, chopped green tea in bags from the grocery store (Lipton and Bigelow come to mind) — stop, now. Please. Seriously, just stop. You do not know what you’ve been missing. I opened this tea and took in a deep breath. And let out a contented sigh, and breathed in some more, again, and again. Green teas are not all the same. The fragrance of this one brought images of dewy, spring mornings to mind. It was light and crisp, and not too vegetal-ish, and definitely not of fresh cut grass. Because I’m not alone in thinking green tea looks, smells and tastes of fresh cut grass, am I.

The flavor was just as my nose detected, and was expecting. The liqueur was a golden sage, and if steeped longer turned more golden. You really only need a minute or two for your first brew. The leaves should sink if the water is hot enough, and will float if not. I put enough leaves in my steeping basket to make my mugful. I will drink green tea unsweetened, and it’s about the only kind, too. After a few swallows I added just a hint of sweetener and I enjoyed it that way as well. Now, here’s the best part. I left my basket with brewed leaves resting on a wide mouth pint Mason canning jar. I came back to my leaves four more times, adding one additional minute to each subsequent steep. The fifth mug was definitely the last and the leaves were spent. Even in boiling water they were starting to float, and gave little color and modest flavor. A sixth mug would have been a waste of water and time. I will definitely be buying this again in the future.

Gingerbread Cookie :: If you grew up in the US you know what these spicy sweet treats are. Are they enjoyed around Europe, and globally as well? I don’t know. If anyone knows, please comment. The first smells make me hungry, and reminded me of Christmas baking. There are bits of dried ginger in the blend, up to 1cm square, so they’re not miniscule. I was a little worried this would be a proper ginger tea, best for upset stomachs. The cinnamon scent was stronger here than in the Chai. The base tea is rooibos, also called Red Bush. It’s not a true tea, in that the plant is not in the same taxonomy genus Cemellia sinensis. It comes from a bush originating in South Africa (Aspalathus linearis), and is naturally caffeine free, and has a lightly sweet and vanilla flavor. The dried leaves are, indeed, a shade of rusty red. What makes it tea is that the leaves are picked and dried, then steeped in boiling water to extract the flavor. Rooibos has several proven health benefits. The leaves are smaller than traditional tea, and crush easily. Expect particulates in the bottom of your cup, mug, or pot. This can be eliminated by doing a 10 second rinse. That’s a lesson for another day. I didn’t want to rinse this tea anyway because of the added cinnamon, in case it would wash it away.

Now that I’ve dropped some knowledge on you, let’s taste this, shall we? The boiling water really opened the ginger and began to smell quite strong. I was more worried about this being an upset stomach tea. I needn’t have worried after all. Yes, the ginger and cinnamon were stronger than the Chai, but not enough to burn. The flavors danced on my tongue. It tried it both unsweetened and sweetened. It is definitely better as a sweet tea, since it is supposed to taste like a cookie. I really enjoyed this, again, to my surprise. Much like the cookies themselves, it’s not for every day. This would be a blend I would keep on hand in small quantities to share with an adventurous tea loving friend.

Keemun :: This one I saved for last. I love black tea. I resisted opening this one until I was ready to make it because I didn’t want it to taint my impressions of the others, because I knew it would have. If I could have buried my whole face in this tea, I would have. Black tea has a richness to it that does not compare to any of the lighter teas. The same plant produces them all, but the deep oxidation… Right, back to the task. Black tea, like green, has familiar fragrances compared to other black varietals, so they smell the same, and yet don’t . I’m having a hard time describing it. It was rich and deep, malty, sweet, with hints of natural vanilla, and robust.

I had to wait to make this cuppa because black tea has the highest caffeine content of them all. Drunk too late in the day and the caffeine would keep me awake. It seems I’m getting more caffeine sensitive the older I get. Black tea has its best flavor if steeped with freshly boiled water. Steeped too long and it gets very strong, very. I generally go with 5 minutes for drinking it hot. For iced tea I’ll steep 15-20 minutes, and dilute with cold water and ice just before serving. Similar to green tea, a black tea tastes much like it smells. This had a robust, malty, sweetness. Unsweetened black tea can have a bitter aftertaste. I like my black teas sweet. Keemun would be delicious in the summer, iced with orange slices added to the glass or pitcher.

FCC Disclosure: This review was unsolicited, and the reviewer was unpaid by the brand and products featured.