Entries tagged as family
Thursday, March 17. 2011
My mom passed away one year ago today. The first feeling that fact elicits is annoyance at myself for how easily I remember this date and not the hundreds of others of far greater significance to my relationship with Mom. In truth, I don’t want to remember today - the anniversary of the last day of her life. When I remember Mom, I want to remember all those days that far preceded that day - that day where her weak and frail body accepted and surrendered to death. I want to remember Mom as a robust woman, full of life and seemingly boundless energy (at least until about 7:30 each evening when she would fall asleep in her chair reading the newspaper).
Continue reading "Reflection: One Year Later" »
Saturday, November 13. 2010
Wondering what NaBloPoMo is? Read this to learn all about it and why (and how) I'm participating!
What a difference a year makes - #12
2009: One of the most frustrating and heartbreaking things about being in the situation we were in last year is the fact that we couldn't help ourselves, let alone anyone else. We felt we had nothing to give and that wore on us as much if not more than being in the dire straits in which we found ourselves.
We had no money, no energy, no resources upon which to draw. We were strictly in "survival mode" as we struggled to keep ourselves from falling apart.
2010: A lot has happened, as I've been recounting here on a daily basis, since 2009. So much of our life is better that we are actually feeling like we have something to give again. I couldn't be more thrilled about that!
The perfect opportunity to be of help came up a few weeks ago. My brother, who lived with Mom, is feeling lonely since she passed away in March. When I found out he was feeling the loss particularly profoundly, my first instinct was, "What can I do?" I broke down and cried for a while, feeling utterly helpless to ease his pain. It seemed like such a big problem and I'm 1000 miles away. What could I possibly do? Then I realized, I am not helpless. I can do some things that will help him.
I realize I'm not saving the world but I am easing my big bro's pain - I am honored to be able to do that. It gives my days more meaning to impact his life. Being able to help is one more step toward recapturing the life we'd lost.
Wednesday, November 3. 2010
Wondering what NaBloPoMo is? Read this to learn all about it and why (and how) I'm participating!
What a difference a year makes - #2
2009: I had an elderly but still spunky and relatively healthy mom. I called her as often as we were both comfortable with. We discussed the family, the weather and my work (or sometimes the lack of it).
It was a comfortable relationship - at last. We'd had our share of being too close for comfort and complete estrangement. Neither of those extremes ever felt right. It turned out that we did our best mothering and daughtering from a distance, interspersed with some pleasant visits across the miles.
The highlight of 2009 was in August when I got to join the family at Mom's 90th birthday party. It was uplifting to celebrate her life and reminisce. That experience seemed to put a lot of "Mom and Me" into perspective.
2010: In March, I lost my mom. I had the chance to say goodbye (but mercifully not knowing at the time that it really was goodbye) a couple weeks before she passed away. She was not the type to complain about her health but I could tell she was not doing well. I got to put on my brave voice from my end of the phone and she got to put on hers from her end. I know in my heart that she decided it was time to die - and she did. Yes, she did.
What 2010 has brought me, though, instead of grief, is renewal. I realize that Mom was ready to go and while I miss those phone conversations, I am left with memories that sustain that relationship within me and always will.
Mom's passing created an opportunity for me to reconnect (or connect for the first time) with family I'd never had the chance to spend time with. I am enjoying newly forged relationships with my sisters, my brother, my nieces and nephews. In the span of a few days spent with them as we laid Mom to rest, this whole new sense of family sprang forth within me. Then and now my family is a source of connection to Mom and to my past - and a bridge to my future. I've developed a new and deeper understanding of the things that are really important in a family - and made some true friends of these remarkable people.
From loss I have found more than I ever imagined.
Tuesday, August 24. 2010
The way I'm going to celebrate Mom's birthday is by writing about the last time I visited her which, aptly, was at the big birthday bash my family held for her last August on the occasion of her 90th birthday. It was a party I very nearly missed... Continue reading "The Counting Skunks Tour 2009" »
Sunday, June 20. 2010
Among the treasures I unearthed was a photo I remembered fondly yet was certain I'd never see again. Oh, how I squealed with delight when my eyes fell upon it once again!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you for the first time in over forty years, the Fred and Ginger of the wedding circuit...
(Cue Rock and Roll Part II)
Mr Jim and Miss Gina!
This is my daddy and me, dancing at my sister Linda's wedding. It's a heartfelt memory, a treasured photo and now a long-lost friend, returned to my life once again.
This picture depicts Dad's and my relationship perfectly - I always felt like his little buddy. He always had time for me and he always made me feel special. Could a little girl feel more special than being all dressed up and dancing with her dad at a fancy hall with a live band? Well, I can tell you this little girl couldn't have!
I have previously written in detail about Dad and me - complete with pictures - but this is the only one you ever really need to see to understand what we were all about.
I share this photo today in honor of Father's Day. Dad passed away in 1997, so even though I no longer can wish him a Happy Father's Day, my heart is warmed today and every day by the memories of him that I carrry with me.
Sunday, May 9. 2010
No tribute I could write today could capture what I was inspired to compose a couple days later in the funeral home's online guestbook. It poured out of my fingers, straight from my heart. In my mom's honor, I share it with you today:
It is an extraordinary honor to have been born your daughter. By your example, you taught me that women are smart and strong and resourceful. By your example, you taught me that life is a precious gift full of joy and purpose: That it is as important to know how to enjoy life as it is to work hard and utilize my talents. These lessons have served me well throughout my life.
Most importantly, by your example, you taught me the essence of "home." Home is where you are accepted for the individual you are, warmly nurtured and endowed with the freedom to grow into the fullness of your potential. Because I know "home," I can venture forth to create and find that feeling of home in my own life.
Thank you, Mom, for these examples which guide me. They provide a constant source of conviction and direction in my life. These are the qualities I seek to share in the world myself. Through me and those whose lives I touch, your examples will live on forever - as will you in my heart.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I Wish I Could Tell You In Person...
Wednesday, December 2. 2009
With the holidays fast approaching, Scott and I have again turned our thoughts to gifts for the family. Holiday shopping can be stressful, tedious, and time consuming - not to mention expensive. But believe me, gift-giving doesn't have to be unpleasant.
When it comes to gifts, it really is the thought that counts. No one in our circle of family and friends - fortunately - is relying on our gift to fulfill any need - or want - for that matter. In the true spirit of a gift, then, we are free to give of ourselves. It has become our tradition to give non-traditional gifts by thinking "outside the box."
For us, gift-giving is a joy rather than a pain in the neck and pocketbook because each year we challenge ourselves to be thoughtful, creative and budget-conscious. We are always proud of the gifts we give and we feel that the recipients are even more appreciative for the care and thought we put into them. Our approach also alleviates the "obligatory" factor of gifting, because our gifts come from the heart and not from the mall.
Let me share some of our previous gift ideas to illustrate what I mean by "thinking outside the box."
- One year, two family members were diagnosed with diabetes. The subject of health was on our minds, so we made a donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation on behalf of each recipient.
- When we noticed that our growing nieces and nephews were leading such independent lives, we thought it would be nice to give the whole family a reason to spend some time together. We created a Family Movie Night basket which included a DVD (The Princess Bride was our excellent choice), homemade flavored popcorn and several blanket throws.
- Then there was Couple's Game Night where we host a night away from the kids each month at our house to play games, enjoy snacks and visit with each other as adults.
- Last year we offered "Aunt and Uncle Day" where we invited the nieces and nephews over to our house (two at a time) for some age-appropriate fun with us, including yoga and spa day for the girls, cooking/guitar lessons and crafts for the boys. It was all about making memories.
Each of these ideas was targeted at the current circumstances and priorities of those we were gifting. Getting to the essence of the recipient is the key to coming up with a great, personalized gift idea. Once you have the "a-ha" moment, you just need to flesh out the concept, making the completed gift as simple or as detailed as you can afford in time, effort and cost.
Brainstorming ideas for people on the gift list creates a wonderful opportunity for teaching children about giving. What a great chance for them to think of others at a time of year that can so often become all about "things." As a bonus, the creation and presentation of the gift can become a satisfying family project incorporating everyone's ideas and talents.
Scott and I want gift-giving to be a meaningful experience, for ourselves and for those to whom we give. We accomplish that by giving a piece of ourselves. One size fits all.
Thursday, June 18. 2009
Our dear wonderful kitty friend Abbey left this world Monday night. I miss her more than I can express. The thought of never enjoying a day in the company of her sweetness again makes my heart ache.
She left us rather suddenly after just a few days of lethargy. I tried all I could to help her regain her strength; giving her water from a medicine dropper and food from my pinky. I held her tiny weak body next to mine hoping to impart health through the love I hoped she'd absorb from me. In the end, she let her daddy know it was time to get her to a place where she could leave us, far away from our happy and lively memories of her. The moment we walked into the emergency vet's office, she began to literally take her dying breaths.
I have never felt so lonely in my own home. I have never felt so alone in my own skin. To say Abbey is part of me is not an overstatement nor an exaggeration. She transcended the 'normal' boundary between species (or maybe I did) to make us friends by any definition that exists. Our relationship was based on our personal brand of communication. I know 'pet people' know what I mean...communication with a cherished pet is something altogether different than with a cherished human. I believe it has to do with the process of bridging the language barrier. Since we don't share a verbal language, we have to rely on other types of communication, which in turn creates and fosters a deep and unique relationship. Other species possess different sensibilities, too, which put them in tune with different aspects of our personalities. In short, only a cat knows you like a cat can know you - and to be known by a cat is a beautiful feeling.
I am privileged to have been known and adored by a very special cat. Abbey filled my life with companionship and laughter. She warmed our home with her steadfast friendship and gentle nature. We shared our many moods and rhythms with her. In turn, she made us privy to the exquisite bliss to be found in a belly rub and a snuggle on a warm blanket.
I know that in time the hole will be filled with cherished memories of Abbey from the fifteen years she spent nuzzled in our lives and hearts. Eventually I will look at a picture of her basking upside down in her favorite sunny spot or remember how she loved to sit in her "cubby" in our headboard and a smile will cross my face. She will be forever my Original Upside Down Cat in my header and heart. For now, though, the wound is raw and the sting is sharp. My best kitty friend and I will make no new memories.
Abbey, not a day went by that I didn't thank my lucky stars for you. I only hope that we gave you the best life possible, filled with abundant love, deep devotion and all the chicken your heart desired. You deserved that and more, Sweet Poopy Girl.
Abbey Road Tilbrook Blitstein
May 8, 1994 - June 15, 2009
Sunday, April 19. 2009
Our nieces came over to our house yesterday for an Uncle and Aunt Day. They are lovely young ladies, aged 11 and 13, both interested in cooking. This is encouraging to me that there are still young people out there who recognize that food can actually come from that room in the house that has the big box that gets hot and not only from places with neon signs out front. I was so encouraged, in fact, that I offered to teach them how to make my Chicken Parmesan. It is a very simple recipe to prepare and I've never encountered anyone who wasn't impressed when I served it for dinner.
I don't usually follow a recipe unless I'm baking but I wanted to send them home with one so they could cook it for their families - so I typed up what I supposed the quantities would be for six servings. I had them follow it to see if any adjustments were necessary and I'm happy to report that it came out perfectly!
Here it is, as promised. A tasty recipe made with simple ingredients, easy enough for a beginning cook to follow.
Continue reading "A Successful Cooking Lesson at Chez Gina" »
Thursday, April 16. 2009
It has been a while since I took the time to post an installment of my What's Cookin'? series! I had to do some early planning this week because I am giving our nieces (ages 11 and 13) a cooking lesson on Saturday. I'm teaching them how to make Chicken Parmesan and sending them home with a recipe so they can make it for their families. We'll see if I can make an impression on the next generation's appreciation for the culinary arts...
At any rate, I have - as usual - planned our meals for the upcoming week in advance. This week is different only in that I am actually posting it for all the world to see (or at least my handful of readers). Here's what will be cooking in my kitchen over the next few days:
Chicken, Rice & Refried Bean Burritos w/ Lettuce, Tomatoes & Cheddar-Jack Cheese
Polish Sausage, Potato & Onion Pierogies & Creamy Coleslaw
Eggs in a Rye Bread Frame, Hash Brown Potatoes w/ Sausage & Cheddar-Horseradish Sauce
Chicken Parmesan, Bow-Tie Pasta w/ Butter & Garlic & Tossed Salad
Bacon, Egg & Cheese "Boats" & Hash Brown Potatoes
Lamb Meatballs, Rice Pilaf w/ Toasted Walnuts & Oven-Roasted Asparagus
Chicken-Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes & Turnip/Mustard/Collard Greens w/ Bacon
Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches on Toasted Garlic Rolls, French Fries & Mixed Greens Salad
Homemade Macaroni & Cheese & Oven-Roasted Broccoli/Cauliflower/Carrot Medley
Homemade Ravioli Filled w/ Ground Veal & Ricotta in Garlic-Butter Sauce & Mixed Greens Salad
Asian Sesame Marinated Sirloin Tip Steak, Steamed White Rice & Broccoli Spears w/ Garlic
It feels good to post my menu again...really, I will try to do it more regularly! Once in a while I've had requests for the recipes for dishes I've listed in my What's Cookin'? series. While I am very flattered, the fact is that most of the time I don't use recipes - except for baking, of course. My cooking tends to be of the "off the top of my head" variety. This week, however, since I need to write up a recipe to give our nieces, I will post my Chicken Parmesan recipe, so stay tuned if you want an easy, yet impressive recipe.