It’s not my recipe, but it’s good for what ails ya:
2 16 oz cans chicken broth (I use more)
1 package taco seasoning
1 onion (chopped and sauteed)
2 T jarred garlic (sauteed with onion)
1 bunch Cilantro (chopped)
2 small cans tomato sauce
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 can black beans
1 can corn
3 cooked chicken breasts, cubed
Boil broth, taco seasoning, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and tomato sauce for 1/2 hour then simmer and add the rest.
- (Thank you, Kris A.)
My making soup, when the weather is foul or someone under our roof is sick, is not new. My making soup for myself, alone –under a roof that is no longer “ours” — is. Trouble is, soup recipes make too much soup for one … so I am reminded of those whose share will go uneaten: My daughter. My husband.
Still, I set forth to the grocery store today …. armed with Kris A’s recipe, a red nose, and a stack of Puffs tissues. I love grocery shopping. I love it because, for a long time, I couldn’t do it without having a panic attack. I love strolling leisurely among the breads and cheeses and vegies and Febreezes, steering my cart gingerly around elderly women who hunker down in the canned fruit aisle, communing with my fellows in frugality (I.e. – I shop at a certain Arkansas-based grocery store. Being broke allows one no room to judge a company’s cut-throat business model.)
While there, I make it a practice to be kind to the checkout clerk. Do you? If not, try it. Ask him how he’s doing. Ask if all that standing is hard on her back. Find something to compliment him/her about. You will make his/her day. He/she will be astounded that somebody actually gives a damn. I find this easy because, as I said, the grocery store was a tough place for me for a long, long time … so I’m naturally grateful to be standing (without sweating or hyperventilating or experiencing my legs as Jello) at someone’s checkout counter. It’s as if, after a pilgrimage beneath the near-seizure-inducing pulse of neon lights, I’ve reached supermarket Mecca — there near the glass doors, where genuine daylight traces the clerk’s face. If it wouldn’t bewilder said clerk (or compel her to call security), I’d probably bow to her and say something like “Namaste” or, better, “Metta” or “Shalom” (because “Namaste” has been hijacked by Yoga-clothes wearing people, most who wouldn’t set foot in this particular store).
*Metta = Loving Kindness
Back to the soup. Ingredients bagged, courtesy of the benevolent and underpaid clerk, I headed home to cook for my own sinus-infected self. Because my own sinus-infected self is as worthy of soup (I keep telling myself, as if reciting a mantra) as anyone else who has come and gone under the roof that is now, at least temporarily, only mine. Mine and, thankfully, Bo-the-ferocious-to-strangers Boxer’s. (Who is utterly thrilled to see me when I come through the door, and not just because I give him treats.)
NPR fully-tuned in on the radio, a cozy gas fire (that looks like the real thing), a big pot on the stove, ingredients set out, I commenced to self nurturing … which has become, over the last 20-or-so years, as foreign to me as — as — well, pretty damn foreign. Not Husband’s fault. Not CC’s fault. I was primed in the art of self-denial. Any dormancy it retreated into during the early part of my marriage, it more than made up for later. The more Husband and CC grew into their lives — the more I supported them in so doing– the more I shrank out of mine. Only I didn’t really know it.
So, this tiny act — the act of chopping an onion, sauteing it with garlic and a little olive oil, creating something that would ease no more than my own aching throat — was, I hope, a start. A carving out of space. A claiming of the parcel of air that my breath requires. A shout to the universe, “Hey, wait a minute, I am … too!”
And it turned out good, the soup. Damn good. Still, when I covered the still-full pot and set it in the fridge, I couldn’t keep from thinking: What if I packed up just a little for Husband? What if I dropped off just a little with CC? And my heart felt so full with the thought, the dream of my little family … and then so empty because that dream is … done. But, who knows? If God is love (which I believe is the case), then one day we may all sit and sup together again — even if in a different configuration. But that time isn’t now … and I need to start getting used to it … even if it hurts like a Mo-Fo.
In the meantime, if you live nearby … I have soup. Call me. Email me. FB me. It’s really good. It soothes the sorest of throats. If you live fairly close, I’ll even bring it to you … because I once had panic attacks every time I drove. And today — just for today — I don’t. So arriving at your door, to share soup I made to heal my own sick self, will be a bit like reaching a holy place after a long pilgrimage. Your welcome mat will be, for me, the promised land. So it’s only appropriate that I bring an offering.
~ Metta ~
(As usual, my first “shitty draft” is yours for the reading. Forgive typos. Will edit tomorrow.)
What to say about the last several weeks?
Fear. Devastation. Annihilation. Grief. Anger. Sorrow. Despair. Disillusionment. Soul Searching. Grasping. Letting go. Breaking. Pain. Healing. Bargaining. Accepting. Rejecting. Starting Again.
And yet …
My cup has runneth over in myriad ways. For example, this week:
My sister, my alive-and-well sister, drove me to UCLA Med Center (follow up after the big surgery) … and, along the way, we laughed hysterically — the way only sisters can. We also cried on the way home, the way only sisters can. We sang with that vocal resonance that only sisters share. We made proverbial lemonade from lemons.
After a 7 hour drive down highway 5, I took the wheel and drove our butts down Santa Monica Boulevard (in rush-hour traffic, mind you) … all the way to where it dead ends at the Pacific Ocean … wherein this same sister and I promptly trekked (gently) into the surf … and stayed there well after everyone else had the sense to get out and dry off. It was the first time my “business” had been immersed since before the big surgery … and I think it (my business) was grateful. All of this was followed by a shared sisterly moment, watching a postcard California sunset, our faces glowing in the orange light, a light breeze lifting strands of our hair.
My dear friends watched my dog, Bo the Boxer, and their two kids — one with a severe heart defect — played with him until he was worn out. They all love Bo the Boxer almost as much as I do. The mom of these same dear friends, a spry 80-year-old cancer survivor, went to church with me last week and we talked about pets and ailments and the weather and husbands … after which our progressive pastor, whose brother is gay, talked about radical things like enduring love and patience and service and action … counter to a sick culture.
My surgeon, the most compassionate doctor I have ever had the privilege of meeting, hugged me. He said the magic words, “You are mesh free.” After 5 years of constant pain, erosion into my pelvic organs, the awful stuff is finally out of my body. He said, “You made me work very hard,” and gave me the pictures/surgical report to prove it. I lost a lot of blood and wound up in the ER two days post op … but, thankfully, was just shy of needing a transfusion. Now, when I walk, I no longer feel mesh sawing into the muscles and nerves around my groin and lower left buttock.
As for the core of my mesh-affected area … my, er, “self-soother” confirmed that my lady bits, at least the external ones, are still fully functioning … once, twice, three times, four times, (oh, what the heck) five. In the midst of this, um, experiment … I understood, at a deeper level, that God created this part of my body for the purpose of pleasure. Something to be utterly celebrated… even if I’m now “celebrating” on my own. Or maybe not on my own … as there’s a reason we are inclined to say, at such moments, “Oh God!”
My neighbor, David — 4’5” tall, long white hair, coke bottle glasses, gapped teeth, and kind … pulled my garbage to the curb on garbage day … again. My other neighbor, Michael, who is down from a layoff, mowed my front lawn while I was at the grocery store. My friend, Nicole, who suffers from an incurable auto-immune disease, brought Thai food over. My friend, Shari, picked up my meds from the pharmacy and delivered them to my front door … and told me not to pay her back. My friend, Walter, (i.e. the Walter in some of my stories) stopped by and we took a walk – my first longish one since the surgery – through an oak-dotted park. Women at my 12-step meetings have hugged me, offered me a free massage, texted me to see how I’m doing, told me that I am beautiful and brave and strong. (Female friends, at 50 and up, are wonderfully different from female friends at 20 or 30. We’ve seen enough, collectively, to have each others’ backs rather than bite them.)
I drove and drove some more, windows open to the gorgeous autumn days. I poured coffee for the weary at meetings. I listened to other people’s struggles rather than focusing only on my own. I got to serve, in some small way.
And today? Today I can walk. I can feel pleasure and pain in the same moment. I can breathe. I can drive to the store and a handful of other places where the leaves on the trees are turning gold and red. I have a higher power … and it’s no longer my husband. My singing voice comes in handy because the car radio doesn’t work. I’m no longer afraid of surgeries. I’m no longer afraid of losing those I most love. I’m no longer afraid of what people think of me. I’m no longer afraid, even, of death.
And losing all of this fear? It only took losing everything I clung most tightly to. It only took impermanence making itself known in such a way where delusion was no longer possible. It only took “sailing my ship of safety ’til I sank it.” (Thank you, Indigo Girls)
And though I prayed, amidst those waves where my sister and I lingered, that God and Her sea would return my husband to me, uphold our sacred vows, I am learning that life without him holds its own richness. Though I would take him lovingly back into my arms … I would do so only after learning how to take myself lovingly in my arms.
And I am learning. Learning the hard way … as has, for whatever reason, so often been my path.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote (via a “freewrite”) a draft of a poem. Because part of a writer’s healing process is sharing what she writes, I emailed it to my old, beloved writing group – a small group that includes my prior teacher and writing mentor.
The poem will provide a glimpse into what has been going on in this writer’s life without delving too deeply into it. Here it is:
For the record, the husband in this poem is a good man, as is the wife a good woman. A man who has been a good husband. A woman who has been a good wife. It’s too soon for the writer to fully understand what happened and why, so on to the larger context of this post — my writing teacher’s comment/question:
“Terri, these poems are beautiful and sad. Consider this just a literary question—what if the vault he created is as beautiful as the sky—how does the poem continue?”
Her question, and my pondering of it, underscores the profound sense of expansion and inquiry that expressive writing engenders. It speaks to the power, once again, of my religion: metaphor and allegory.
As my body does what it needs to do … goes about healing from a surgery that was much more than physical … as my heart attempts to begin a similar process, my teacher’s question shines in the murky distance, illuminated by something I can’t yet discern … somewhere far ahead of where I now stand.
*I will allow comments (though I’ve few readers left since my hiatuses) but will not be publishing them. (Added: Kirk’s got through before I set comment moderation.)
Something about the light at 7:03 pm,
September 10th, 2013
has made it possible
for me to let go.
Something of the way it moves,
liquid, nearing autumnal orange
through the curtain, across
our bedroom, down the wall.
Something about the way
the front-yard maple tree
can hold neither particle
nor wave in its palmate hands
and simply bears witness
as each vein is, momentarily,
Even day itself — day, mind you
releases its grasp on the sun.
Surrenders its very self to night.
And here I am with my worries,
my pains, my peaces.
There you are with yours.
Even as 7:03 pm has given itself
to 7:39 pm. Even as dusk has
bent low in the sky so to drop
purple on the horizon.
Even as we have lain something, you and I,
at each other’s feet: This thing called writing.
This thing called reading.
Some of you know that I’m on the cusp of a fairly nasty surgery. This, in addition to other familial health concerns (and, by gaw, getting in as much living as possible amidst all of it) has kept me too busy to blog.
The recovery period will be fairly long, involving flat-on-my-back time … and, since sex is out of the question, what better position for blogging? Plus, who knows what flights of fancy a pain- med-influenced blogging session (combined with an already self-edit-challenged mind) may lead to? It’s anyone’s guess.
As such, I’ll be password protecting my posts. If you’d like to read them, message me on my facebook page and I’ll give you the password. Or, heck, just email me at: t k e writingclasses @ yahoo dot com (without the spaces and with a real dot, of course). You’ll have to prove you’re you and not some weirdo who arrived here via a Google search of “pubic hair.” (I get a a lot of that, courtesy of the “business shaving” post I wrote awhile back).
Seriously, if you’re a genuine reader who will honor the privacy factor, I’d be honored to include you.
Kind of like a backstage pass … except no groupies, weed, or divaesque-rockstars to contend with.
1977 marked the sacred threshold over which I passed from the bourgeois realm of “Top 40” to real, live rock and roll. It seems the moment should have been marked by something auspicious – an arbor of crossed electric guitars -- but, looking back, what says 70s Rock and Roll better than a guy in a stairwell trying to sell me shrooms?
I just finished reading Mary Karr’s memoir, Cherry. The book (in Karr’s trademark gorgeous prose) chronicles the years between The Liar’s Club (reflections on her dysfunctional but uniquely loving family) and Lit (her struggle with alcoholism/old demons). The first half of Cherry zeroes in on the author’s awakening sexuality, a la the teenage years. Karr set out to address this sensitive subject in a way that would be neither titillating for the reader nor evocative of Nabakov’s Lolita. To my sensibilities, she succeeds. Employing mostly second-person narration, Karr makes the reader complicit. It’s not only the young Karr who is kissed by dreamboat John Cleary, it’s “you.”
Reading Cherry put me in mind (to use Karr’s Texan phraseology) of kissing. So, in light of time constraints, a short homage to Karr and to four kisses (with which I’ll make you, reader, complicit).
You are eleven and infatuated with a boy named Bobby Mally, a sandy-blond too shy to be infatuated back. His best friend is Andy, Andy whose dad looks like John Denver. (Because of the look-alike thing, you and your friend, Tish, share a mild crush on Andy’s dad — who you recall now with resurfacing curiosity, calculating your age difference, realizing that ten years later you could have more-enjoyably kissed him instead of Bobby). You and Bobby have set a date and time to kiss. Actually, Andy and Tish set it but so what. You’re in 6th grade and count down the days — tick marks on the back of your Pee-Chee folder — until a Friday finds you and Bobby and Andy and Tish descending the schoolbus’s steps (you, with a flutter in your chest that hasn’t yet found its way further south). It’s a spring day. (Of this you’re fairly sure now because it’s sunny, warm not hot, the asphalt not yet pocked with shiny, melted tar.) This is to be your first kiss beyond random pecks a la Truth or Dare … and you’ve imagined it for a week. Though you’ve heard of “frenching,” the idea of a boy’s tongue in your mouth is about as appealing as eating a slug … and you know Bobby enough to know he won’t try it. It’s the meeting of lips, soft and chaste, that has played out via your imagination as you’ve sat near Bobby in the cafeteria, him smelling of bologna and mustard. A block from the bus stop, you reach Andy’s backyard, his dad conveniently at work. This is the place, the time. You don’t remember, now searching your memory’s film, the minutes before the kiss except that Bobby won’t look you in the eye and seems, instead, to study his Adidas. When the big moment comes he curls his lips over his upper and lower teeth … so your lips don’t meet his lips at all. Instead, you wind up kissing the cleft beneath his nose, the space above his chin, which he’s pulled tight, sucked in hard against his teeth. Like kissing a fleshy turtle. The big event lasts all of one second and leaves you, if not unsatisfied, perplexed.
You are twelve, almost 13, and in love. Not “puppy love” but the real deal. You can say this, even 38 years later, with certainty because time has proven it. You met him in first grade but, a year ago, he moved to your neighborhood, two houses down. His hair is longish, auburn, curly – rock-star hair, you think. He is lean, the muscles in his shoulders and arms are long and move beneath his skin when he grips his BMX bicycle’s brake. When you walk home from the bus stop together, he tells you funny stories in an Italian accent he borrows from his dad. In June he asks you to “go steady” while everyone in your neighborhood watches from across the street. When he does this, he gives you a necklace he made with your named spelled out — tiny black letters etched onto small white beads — and you are his. Now it’s July and you’re about to go on vacation with your family … and, Lord, two weeks away from him seems impossible. You and he are behind the Slater’s garage, hiding. Hiding because you’re playing Kick The Can with the rest of the neighborhood kids and because Kick The Can is a good enough excuse to be alone together, hidden. It’s there, behind the garage, that he tells you he loves you and you say it back. It’s there that you feel his close breath, catch a change in the way he looks at you, witness — for the first time — a fusion of intensity and vulnerability you didn’t know could exist in a boy. You are awed by this, moved nearly to tears, weakened and emboldened by it. You know the kiss is coming, soften toward it, watch in slow-motion as his lips move toward yours. You keep your eyes open because you want to see everything (which is, maybe, why the memory is still so vivid). Also, Jasmine must have been in bloom because if you catch a whiff of it now, you’re taken back, leaning against the wall of Slater’s garage. You’re sure, now, that you must have imagined this kiss a hundred times before it happened but you don’t remember the imagining. Maybe because the reality was so much better. He doesn’t try the “frenching” thing (won’t for another year or so) and you’re glad. It’s just fine the way it is. Soft and warm and close and languid and thrilling and new and so much more than enough for a suburban tomboy.
You are 23. He is double that only you don’t know it because he looks younger and, frankly, you never asked. You have worked with him, day in and day out, at a large corporation where you are a secretary and he, a manager. You’ve become friends because he makes you laugh and (though you don’t know this is the reason) you make him feel young. He is black and you are white. This shouldn’t matter but, given the times and certain geographies, your friendship is frowned upon by some and anything more than friendship … taboo … which, of course, endows the notion with gravity — more pull from him than you at first, but that will change. Early on, when you orbit him, you do so blithely. You appreciate his help with Algebra. You’re flattered when he sends flowers to your desk for no particular reason. When he wants to cook you dinner, you say no thank you but then, after he tells you he’s fallen in love with you, you say okay. You go to his house for dinner because you’re falling in love with him, too, or maybe because you don’t want to hurt his feelings or maybe because you like being loved by an older man the way girls with daddy-issues sometimes do. Probably all three. Once there, you wonder if you should stay or leave. You wonder if there’s some workable blend of both . You wonder. He talks about Paris and art and music and society’s ills … and this makes him, in your eyes, wise as an oracle because guys your age talk mostly about beer and trucks. Still, you wonder. He tells you he’s never felt this way before. You wonder. His lips brush your cheek. You wonder. He calls you baby. You wonder … but then he takes you firm up in his arms and he kisses you and his kiss is a different thing altogether. It takes you and all of your thinking into it, pulls the whole of you like a tide … until you’re upside-down and sideways and head-over-feet, tumbling and adrift and malleable like so much seaweed. In his kiss, you are exposed and safer than you ever have been. You you are lost and found and falling and caught and, willingly, done for.
You are nearing 26, washed up on the shore. He is 27, churned out by other seas. But, in each others’ eyes, you are (both) somehow new. Radiant, even. You are wary of love now, so when he uses the word you figure he’s confused or infatuated or naive. Still, there’s something in the way he looks at you, into your eyes deep and long and searching. Or maybe it’s the way he lets you look into his … like he’s opened holy gates to something he’s shown nobody else … so you feel privileged. He reads you his poems, takes you to brunch on Mother’s Day when everyone else pretends to forget … and you, now, so emptied of proof. He beams when he holds your hand. And you? You aren’t ready. When you tell him this, he says he will wait. He will wait and so will you, though you will notice the way his back splays out like a cobra’s (years of swimming), the way his brownish, sun-bleached hair brushes the tops of his bare shoulders when he plays volleyball. Together, you reclaim pieces of yourselves that you’d believed gone. You hike the mountains, the seashores. You paint together on large sheets of watercolour paper which, later, will hang in a gallery. Slowly, you let yourself love again. And, when he kisses you the first time, it’s at your doorstep, his lips parted just slightly, soft, a moment of lingering, then a brush of his hand on your hair before he turns to go. And you remember it now, though it was neither passionate nor tepid, because its tenderness rendered you innocent. You remember it, too, because it was the beginning of a kiss that has lasted, so far, twenty-some-odd years. A kiss that (some months after the doorstep) will find you lying on his bed, fully-clothed, for hours — still kissing, nothing more — until the windows are steamed and you taste (with gratitude) the salt of his sweat. A years-long kiss that will ebb, flow, expand, contract, fall and rise again. This kiss you will rest in. And he, giver of this kiss, will learn to employ it to slow your mock-speed mind. He will see you mid-bill-paying or post-parental-caretaking or pre-job-interviewing — the crease between your brows fretting itself into a crevasse — and he will kiss you. A peck, you think, as you shift, begin to turn back to your worry du jour. But he will linger there at your lips. He will linger … and your shoulders will fall down from around your neck. And you will tell yourself I’m here now. Here and loved longer, more tenaciously than you dared imagined you would be. Here, loving back this man whose lips you now know as well as your own.
Been too busy to visit blogs, let alone promote this post. If you drop by, tell me about a kiss you remember.