Category Archives: Uncategorized

Escarole and beans

  • A friend and I went to the farmer’s market last weekend. I found the most glorious head of escarole. I remember my Gramma Grace making ‘scarole’ back in the day. You’d never  have gotten me to touch it. But, seeing that gorgeous head of escarole made me want to try making Gracie’s old recipe.

I had absolutely no idea what was in it, but I do remember how it smelled. Lots of garlic. I trusted my inner palate and, whoa, Nellie! It was divine.

Very simple: sauté a chopped onion in olive oil. Once it’s translucent, add a head of escarole. Once it’s all wilted and soft (about three or so minutes) take it off the heat. In another pan, sauté a can of white beans (any kind) along with the starchy water in olive oil, add garlic (lots) a tbsp of chicken base paste. Once that’s heated through and sticky, add the escarole into the pan of beans. Let it all meld together about five minutes on a low simmer. Take it off the heat, add a splash of lemon and a good fistful of grated cheese. Done! Filling, nutritious and inexpensive. Not to mention yuuuuum.

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Quoting from the Moleskine

“The world is a rushing river, and I’m a rock in the middle of it.” Christofer DeFino

I am in Virginia Beach with beloved friends. This is the fifteenth year I’ve been following the need to connect with like birds south. Some of the faces have changed over the years, but most remain consistent. The dollbabies feed my writer-soul the way nothing else does, or ever can.

On this trek south, a 12 hour drive I look forward to every year, I sat on the ferry between Cape May, NJ, and Lewes, DE, reading through an ancient moleskine notebook I keep in my purse. Because I now write myself notes on my cell phone, I don’t use it much anymore; keeping it on me is habit. Of course, there are many notes from years past, among them the one above.

I’m not sure if I remember correctly, but I believe Chris and I were in the car, on the way to one doctor’s office or another. He said those words to me, during the course of conversation (I really miss those deep conversations, during the captive-audience car rides over the years) and they broke my heart a little. That’s how he felt, on so many levels. The world rushed around him, passing him by. It also exemplified how it felt to be trapped in thoughts most can’t grasp. He was always just a little outside of any group he was in, even when he hung out with his professors, who actually could understand those things he was so passionate about, because he was always so much younger than they.

Such thoughts he had; I don’t think there are many who could truly understand them.  After he died, the university Bio/Chem department had a memorial in his honor. Professor after professor got up and talked about how, though they knew they were in for hours of discussion they couldn’t spare in their busy days, they’d put away what they were doing to talk when they saw him coming. Chris made them remember what they loved about their chosen field. He made them remember what it was like to be that young and passionate. And every one of them said how HE showed them new things, new ways to see chemistry, because he never bogged down in what was supposed to be, but what could be.

He thought in abstracts and concretes, in chemical compounds like a synesthete thinks in colors. He could see the structure of a compound, just by thinking them. He could link this compound to another, seeing the ways they would combine, become something new. I, honestly, could never understand most of what he talked about; mine is not a scientific mind. I guess it’s the way I see story as building blocks, and can move them from place to place and see the whole it will make.

I didn’t just lose my son; the world lost a great mind. One that could have made a difference, actually did make a difference in ways he’ll never be remembered for. I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering what would have made a difference, what would have been that thing that pulled him out of his fate, and into a better one. I’ll never find that answer. Never.

One thing I do know is that Chris had a lot to give that he never got the chance to. Few were few willing to accept what it was he had to give them, let alone give him back in equal measures. His love was boundless, and demanded the same in return. His mind was infinite, and sought someone, anyone who could exchange thought for thought. He could make you his world, and begged for you to make him yours. Demanded it, sometimes. Most times. Maybe it wasn’t possible. Maybe people just don’t have as much to give, don’t feel comfortable about demanding the huge quantities he asked for. Everything about him was big, and overwhelming, I will admit.

I sit here, in this beach house, the sound of waves crashing on the beach, and Sara’s mixer whirring downstairs, and the silence of women writing all around me, and I realize I have what my son wished for, not just here but in my life as a whole. I, too, am a stone in the middle of a rushing river, but I have other stones nearby to stem the flow, to keep the water from wearing me down.

Peace.

 

 

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One Nation, Indivisible.

     You know when the first, hard death knell for democracy was tolled in America? When McCarthyism succeeded in adding “Under God” to our pledge (and soon after made it mandatory on money. *see below)
     Look at the placement–“One nation under God, indivisible….” Dividing one nation, and indivisible with the very thing that divides us most completely. There is no denying the overwhelming influence of Christianity on the United States at inception, and in the present, but religious freedom is one of the prized tenets of Americans as a people. It’s being used as a weapon of mass destruction, and no one seems to get it.
     I’m not blaming God. Not yours or anyone else’s. Don’t get all twisted up thinking I’m disdaining your faith. I’m disdaining those who saw, as history has always seen, that you can control a whole people by controlling their god. That is something all people of faith should disdain. Religion is being used, repeat–AS IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN USED–for power, and political gain.
     This is where most of the strife comes from, whether it’s a Muslim ban or anti-abortion advocates demanding their beliefs dictate the choices of all, the misuse of “God’ has divided this nation. It’s no secret that the Republican party, that proud and respected entity, has dug too deeply into the pocket of the Christian Right, and now can’t seem to get out of it. Every other party in existence can rant and rage and protest, but the power to actually fix anything lies in the hands of Republicans who have the courage to say enough is enough, to take their party back from the dark places it’s gotten lost in.
     I’m not a fan of Russel Brand, nor do I have any animosity for him. I have no real opinion of the man, actually, but he said something I feel deep in my core–this thing is done. (Speaking of Trump as well as Brexit.) What we need to concentrate on is how it was allowed to happen. We need to know why it did, and take measures to see that it can’t happen again.
     Under God…You may say, “So what? They’re just words.” But words have power. It’s subtle, and it’s insidious, but it is very purposely done.
*It was stamped onto coin currency starting 1864 and has appeared on paper currency since 1957. A law passed in a Joint Resolution by the 84th Congress and approved by President Dwight Eisenhower (who also approved the change to the pledge) on July 30, 1956 declared IN GOD WE TRUST must appear on currency.

 

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I wear his slippers, every day.

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I can’t walk in them. They’re way too big. Instead, I keep them at my desk where, at the start of my writing day, I slip them on first thing. Chris always had a pair of these slippers. This was actually a fairly new pair, at the time they became mine. He hadn’t worn them down, or out, like the other pair I keep with his things. He’d worn these when he came home to visit, after he left home, and then when he moved back because things had gone so wrong.

He always had this particular kind slippers, because they cushioned the pain in the bottom of his foot. Walking barefoot was like walking on razor blades, so he never did it. Recently, I’ve had some issues with the bottom of my foot; that first step was excruciating. The rest weren’t quite as bad, but bad. While Frank and I were in Virginia, it hurt so much that he had to go get the car. I couldn’t make it back. And though I knew my son’s pain on an intellectual level, I was finally faced with a small portion of what he felt every day for ten years, what he would have always felt.

Instead of seeing a doctor about this sudden and inexplicable pain in my foot, I bore it knowingly. Purposely. It was my penance for getting it all wrong. I wanted to feel his pain. I deserved it. I owed it to him. I know–kind of sick. Terribly sad. I don’t care. It made me feel better somehow. Not just penance, but solidarity. I understood the draw of flagellants to the whip, the Albino monk in the DaVinci Code and his cilice.

I do have an aversion to seeking assistance when I’m in pain. I always have. It is partially because I have such a high tolerance for it, and things have to be really bad before I truly feel it enough to seek help. It drives my kids mad. But it’s also because I see myself as tough, able to take it. And I am. A point of pride. I’m also aware of just how insane that is.

This time, I wanted the pain. And I’ll admit that out loud now that it’s mostly gone and no one can make me go to a doctor. I was in no mortal danger, so it’s not like I was risking my life or anything. I don’t advocate this sort of thing. If any of my kids were doing it, I’d be a wreck. Funny, how that works, right?

Peace.

 

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It’s not your call

Dear Trump supporters,

We get it. You won the election when every poll and every news outlet said it was impossible. Trump is our next president. You’re breathing a sigh of relief. Horray for you. But you know what? You don’t get to tell the rest of us it’s time to get over it and move on. You just don’t.

For eight years you despised our President. Eight. Years. You obstructed, you spewed derision, you cheered every time anything he tried to do failed and booed whenever he succeeded. Some of you have been absolutely disrespectful of his race, of his wife, of his status as an American citizen.

Eight years of, “He is not my president.”

Eight years of crying for Impeachment.

Eight years you carried on.

Eight years you didn’t get over it and move on.

So you don’t get to tell more than half the country (of those who voted) it’s time to make peace and accept our fate. My last blog post made it clear I am willing to see the other perspective and at least try to understand things from your eyes. I strive not to fall for click bait or believe everything I read on Facebook. I’ve listened, and I’ve absorbed, and I’ve even agreed on a few things. But that doesn’t mean I’m “over it.” No. I’m not. I won’t be, either, unless some Dickens-like miracle happens and Donald Trump changes the tune he sang throughout not only this election process, but at least the last decade. If he proves to be a damn good president, I won’t despise him simply because of how you despised Barak Obama (and Hillary Clinton.) I won’t hold my breath, either.

~Terri

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A Truly Bizarre Dream

I dream in story. I always have. For me, it’s not only a matter of my brain sorting through the day’s events, storing memories and sifting them to the right places. (Pixar’s Inside Out does an amazing job of illustrating this process. So cool.) My dreams tell me stories, and sometimes those stories get written down into a book. Last night, however, was one of those bizarre dreams that stayed with me in sharp detail. That alone says something, but the components are a mystery to me…so I’m memorializing it here.

The dream:

Frank and I were on our way to a wedding. I was wearing the dress I wore when he and I got married nearly 28 years ago. We were on Lincoln Ave, in Hawthorn, NJ. I was driving. Frank told me to get on Route 208 via the entrance ahead, but when I turned onto the road he indicated, we were in the woods. And on foot. And it was pitch black.

I had no idea where we were, but Frank noticed a Costco shopping cart off to the side in the bramble. He led me (and some other people I have no idea the identity of, but were also going to this wedding) to the back of a Costco parking lot. I went into the store, but it wasn’t a Costco. It was a movie theater. And Frank was no longer with me.

Instead, I was with a cyclops. Yup. A cyclops. For some reason, even in the dream, I had the sensation of Brian and William, (earlier that day, I noted how incredibly like his grandfather he looks.) The cyclops’ one, beautiful eye was very blue with the hint of green. He was young, and sweet, and he had this coupon that said all cyclopes got into the movies for free. I was referred to as “12-pack mom” because, apparently, I frequented that movie theater once a week with a dozen second graders, and thus qualified for a dollar discount on my movie ticket.

While cyclops was trying to use his coupon, I was singing at the top of my lungs with a very large, very talented black man. We were singing, “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough.” I knew all the words. A woman with very long hair was dancing beside us, breaking into the chorus whenever we got to it.

And then I woke up. I remember seeing it was just before dawn and thinking I wanted to go right back to sleep so I could continue the dream, but I, of course, had to pee, so I got up. I went back to sleep, but not to the dream. And still, it was clear as it remains right now when I finally did get up about an hour later.

If anyone has any interpretation to offer, I’m game!

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Feeling Culinarily Accomplished

What did I do Sunday? Here, let me show you.

Fifty pounds of plum tomatoes made twenty-two jars of sauce, plus enough for the really outstanding clam sauce I made that evening. It took four hours, including the clam sauce. It was fun! And I feel accomplished, culinarily speaking.

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InD’tale Reviews

Seeking Carolina

4 1/2 stars

WOMEN’S FICTION:  Johanna Coco has returned to Bitterly, Connecticut to attend her grandmother’s funeral but misses it. Charlie McCallan finds her in the cemetery and brings her home. For Johanna, Charlie is everything in her past that she has tried to forget. For Charlie, Johanna is everything he wants in his future.

One would have thought that this was a straight love story, but the underlying sub-plot of finding Johanna’s mother, plus the mental illness that affects Johanna and her sister’s life choices, makes the story multifaceted and interesting. It is a love story revolving around the Coco daughters and their missing mother and the secret that their grandmother kept. To juggle more than one subplot to bring the love story, between a man and a woman, and among the women of the Coco family, forward is a feat in itself which Ms. Defino does very well. She has also allowed one to see the internal conflict of each of the characters in varying degrees (including that of the secondary characters) leading to a rich tapestry of the lives and loves of the people in Bitterly, Connecticut.

While the characterization was rich, the setting was limited only to the places where the characters went. Sometimes it came across like sets inside a studio. Nevertheless, the poetry that precedes every chapter more than makes up for this. Ms. Defino is one author to watch out for because of the beautiful stories she writes.

MP Ceja

Dreaming August

5 stars

WOMEN’S FICTION:  Benedetta “Benny” Grady is a widow who continues to pine for her dead husband. She religiously visits the cemetery and plants flowers around his grave, speaking to him and also to Mrs. Fargus and to August, each of whom died centuries ago. Benny has a secret, something that she only tells her dead husband and ghostly friends and would like to hide from one person she has fallen in love with – her husband’s best friend, Dan Greene. Dan has fallen for Benny and plans to woo her but she keeps on avoiding him until she finally gives in. But then Dan unearths her secret and it’s now his turn to move away.

Ms. DeFino is a remarkable storyteller. Her writing style is as beautiful as it is original. One wishes that they lived in Bitterly, Connecticut in order to know Benny and Dan, as well as a host of other secondary characters that give meat to the story. These characters have their own stories to tell and are not just included in the story as props. Readers will come to love August and Mrs. Fargus and get a glimpse of what life after death must be like. Their dialogue about the great beyond is as humorous as it is bittersweet. Ms. DeFino is definitely an author to watch!

MP Ceja

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Scott Dream

I dreamed of Scott last week, and have been replaying it in my head ever since. It was so good to see him. Gads, I miss my son. I’ve never been to Portland (Oregon,) but that’s where we were. It looked like the city I’ve seen so many times on Unique Eats, on the Cooking Channel. We were chatting in what I assume was the foodtruck pod where he works. He was so happy. It radiated out of him. But the bandmates he went out there to be with were ready to come back home. He wasn’t. Plain and simple.

Chris was there in the dream, but I was the only one who could see him. Why is his hair always long and curly in my dreams*? And he’s always wearing a blue plaid flannel shirt he had years ago, one he rarely wore but looked so good in. As Scott and I talked Chris stood behind him, silently shaking his head. As if to say Scott was right to stay out west, and that he was staying with him.

They’d plans, pipe dreams, to go out west together. To have an adventure, see a new world, make a place that wasn’t here for themselves. When Scottie went out to Portland solo, I imagined Chris in the passenger seat beside him, silent and watchful, taking it all in along with the brother he adored. I wanted that for them so badly. Maybe they got it after all.

(*Because that’s how he wore it when he was at his best, his happiest, his most whole.)

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Where does your story come from?

I read every day. Though no one can actually go through a day without reading at least a traffic sign, thanks to smartphones, most people do read more than that on a daily basis. The kind of reading I’m referring to, however, is story. Fiction of whatever kind. Something from someone’s imagination turned into a small reality and shared. Setting my book down this morning–reluctantly–I thought to myself, How does anyone live without stories?

About 1/4 of American adults don’t read books. That 3/4 of the population does read isn’t really heartening. Most of those will admit to reading a book or two a year, and a large percentage of those read non-fiction. Few have read a book a month, and even fewer, more. Statistics vary according to the year, but they don’t travel too far. Readers are a rare breed.

Reading isn’t for everyone. I get that, but I don’t get it. I’ve been a constant reader since I could do so on my own. How does anyone live without novels? Sure there’s television, movies, plays etc. They’re stories we see with our eyes, leaving our brains to simply enjoy. But reading–it takes effort. It’s an act of creation on top of an act of creation, because though writers provide the words, and good ones do a fair job of providing cues and clues, the readers have to finish creating that world, those characters in their own minds. No matter what’s going on in the world, the separate reality within remains constant, and yet, depending upon what’s going on outside those pages, we’ll see different things within the text. It’s the same with any art, of course, your internal dictates its external. I’ve read The Giver (Lois Lowry) every five years since my twenties and I come away with something different every time.

I suppose, story intake is different for everyone. A conversation is full of story. Sit in a cafe, and there are stories all around you. Study a painting, a piece of music, a garden–stories, stories, stories. I know this as well as I know everyone is different, there is no right and wrong but only perspective, that people get what they need in the manner they need it. And sometimes they don’t. But for me? There is no living without story by the written word. There just isn’t.

How about you? Where do your stories come from?

magic book

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