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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turning It All Inside Out

Assuming you had a happy childhood -- and I did -- there is something lovely about living in the same town in which you grew up. All the happies are there. The happy birthday when you were nine, the happy feeling when the boy you wanted to ask you out did, the happy holidays that brought family together.
First day of school

I periodically drive past Glencairn, my old elementary school, when headed to the east side of town. I lived five blocks away during a period where children walked to their neighborhood school. We walked home, too -- my mother would hear me crying because Bobby Burgess was teasing me. Her sage neighbor said, "It's getting louder. Let her come."

And times at Glencairn were happy times. My best friend was Shelley LeVett. She was creative and we could draw together, play Barbies and make things. There were other friends, too. The Loomis twins and their sister, who were from Costa Rica, adopted by their academic parents. There was Bobalee and Susie and Kristin and lots of others. We grew up from class to class, Brownie year to year. 

There was a fireplace in the lobby and Miss Sloan, the principal, would sometimes have us there for a story. Every Easter a large egg tree stood in that hallway. We had "boys day" when the boys brought kites and "girls day" when the girls brought their dolls. Today, sexist. Back then, it was all right.
The Glencairn Brownie Troop

The teachers. Mrs. Ruby, grade five. She was great fun. Miss Lee (grade four) was a bit mean, but looking back, I think she was just doing what a teacher of fourth graders had to do. I still have an ornament on my tree she gave us. 

Mrs. Craddock (grade three) was the best. I think I learned how to spell from her and I still remember making puppets and macaroni cigar boxes in her class. Mrs. Burnett, Mrs. Gregg, Mrs. Quimby, I remember them all, and fondly.

I'm sure there are moments of which I am less fond -- Field Day, for example; being picked last; corrective shoes and math. But overall, I loved grade school and it broke my heart when my parents made the wise decision to move when I was going into sixth grade. Wise, but difficult.

I didn't go into Glencairn school for many years after. Decades. Then I met a guy named with Rick with two boys, Greg and Kevin, who attended the same school. I had the chance to see that school through an adult's eyes. The "tall ceiling" -- not so tall anymore. The chairs, however, seemed very small. The school had been added onto and yet it was much the same and it was very good.
It's not so easy to go by Glencairn anymore. This spring a friend of Greg's since he was a small Glencairn kid himself, decided that his life was too complicated to continue and in the schoolyard where he once played, where Greg said they had been very happy, he took his life. 

I won't go into the myriad of feelings that come to my mind when I pass that playground. I think you can guess what they are. Nor will I dwell on the sense of loss that we all felt when this handsome young man so full of promise when Rick and I saw him just two months before, feels like. You can imagine that, as well, and it is something you never want to experience yourself. And of course, for us, the loss could never be compared to that of his family. Wonderful human beings who did all they could. 

At the funeral, Greg told his mother (and later, me) that after seeing the pain that his friend's parents and brother were experiencing, he was so glad that during his own dark times, times when he had contemplated doing the very worst, that he didn't, for he could never bear to give the people who loved him that much pain.
 
"Star" by Greg Oberle, age 18

On Thanksgiving Rick, Kevin and his Molly and I gathered for dinner at the duplex in which Rick lives, two blocks away from me. He rents the other side, his tenant a quiet but great guy. Greg couldn't make it, he had a gallery showing in Chicago and was under deadline. After the turkey was in the oven, we all walked to my house where the guys trimmed branches that were scraping my roof, moved a chest in from the garage and then Rick left to base the turkey. I checked the mail and left Kev and Molly watching last minutes of the Lions game.

When I returned home, the police were questioning Rick, asking him when he'd last seen the tenant. As we watched -- and tried not to watch -- the scene unfolded in front of our eyes. His adult children in profound and inconsolable grief, police cars, an ambulance that left empty, rubber gloved policemen entering the house. And later, a body removed, covered with the sheet.
Later, we learned that this charming guy had been deeply depressed for a very long while. 

We had no idea. 
I've been depressed, too. Many times and darkly depressed. But I've always known that for myself what these two wonderful people did was not the way out. 

I implore you, if you have a dark space -- even a very long and hard one -- find another way to get to the light. Get help. Make people listen and if they don't, find someone who will. And when they try to help you, accept their help. If you fall back, seek them out again. And remember, people love you.
 
And from the outside -- be vigilant. Look around you and make sure the people for whom you care know how much they matter. When they are sad, listen to them. If you must, encourage them to get help. Remember, this six-week holiday season can be very difficult under the best of circumstances. For some, they are nearly unbearable. Be aware. Do everything that you can do -- and know in your heart and soul that you did everything you could.
 I'm so glad Greg wasn't there that day.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Autumn Up-North Style & Pasta Recipe

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving and continue to enjoy the holiday. Here's a last look at fall before we start decking the halls!

In Michigan, we don't usually say we're "going to Gaylord" or "going to Traverse City."
We go "up north."
 
These photos are a little late; indeed, it's bare now! But if you're not tired of beautiful colors yet, take a look at a few more!
 
I started out at the farm market. At this time of year, the colors, textures and smells are so powerful, I can never resist!
I stocked up on mini-corn. That will turn into something soon, if it hasn't already!

There was a car show going on in the north.
 
Couldn't resist a couple of photos.
 
Of course by the ski areas, there's a lot of diverse elevation and the view was great.
 
I'm not sure anything makes me feel so "down home" as a white fence!
 And with the sky so blue, I couldn't help by stop to take this photo of horses grazing.
The color was breathtaking, everywhere I looked.

Back roads and highways dazzled equally.
And because it was a warm fall day, just being outside was a joy.
 
Rick did a 100-mile bike ride (which he said was equally beautiful) and when he came home, I'd made pasta sauce from the last of his tomatoes. (recipe below)
 
It was so fresh with basil from the farm market. I usually put in some red wine, but I didn't want to detract from the fresh flavors of the veggies.
That and a tomato caprese salad pretty much used up the freshies from his garden and mine. The apple crisp took care of the Honey Crisps.
This was our last weekend at the lake together for this year. So we took a long beach walk...
These tracks intrigued me. They were right at the water's edge.
The reeds looked beautiful -- they were quite tall. Usually we can't even walk the beach on the path we took because the water is too high, but it was low and we could through them, still on the sand!
We walked home from our destination on the tracks.
It's so hard to say goodbye to the cottage for another year. But this was a good way to leave it behind.

Rick and Jeanie's Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce
  • Dice about 6 very large or 9-12 mix of medium and small -- tomatoes, reserving juices
  • In olive oil, brown one medium diced onion
  • Add three large cloves of garlic
  • Add tomatoes to the onion/garlic mixture
  • Chop a nice bunch (maybe half cup, give or take) fresh basil and add to the pot
  • Chop a nice bunch of oregano (maybe 1/8 c.) and add to pot
  • Chop about 15 small or 7 large kalamata olives and add.
  • 1/4 t. hot pepper flakes
  • Chop a small bunch of parsley and add
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • Few shakes of red wine vinegar (optional; I didn't use it this time because the tomatoes were acidic enough; sometimes they aren't..)
  • Optional: Hefty splash of red wine (Again, didn't use this time, but often do.)
  •  Optional: green/red/banana pepper, diced small.
 Let it cook down, as long as it takes to reduce the liquids somewhat and turn "saucy." 
These quantities nicely dressed a pound of spaghetti. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Autumn: Closer to Home

Is it still colorful where you are?
Here are a few photos from early October.
Had to post them before the snow falls! I leave them as a Thanksgiving gift to you -- and a wish to celebrate the beauty of nature as it comes because chances are, it will leave all too soon, not to return for a rather long while.
This is from our MSU Gardens -- they go through so many seasons.
In some ways, fall is one of the loveliest of all.
Those two above might end up as cards!
Isn't this a lovely spot to sit?
There is something about fall that can take my breath away. I hope you have been enjoying yours! Happy Thanksgiving, if that's your time of year and if it's not -- just look about and savor!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Introducing Lizzie Cosette

I didn't mean for it to happen. But look at that face!
For the past few months I have been in a pretty significant depression. I keep thinking it's a good thing I was a theatre major so it doesn't show that much. But it does.
I was so grieving Gypsy's death. My health has been challenged with more recurring infections. The pace at work was intense. There were a lot of activities on the calendar. that while I had a nice summer in some ways, I rarely got to the cottage. And when I did, I was tired!
But then a friend called. She was fostering three kittens and the mom-cat found in an abandoned garage, no doubt dumped pregnant or shortly after the kits were born.
The kittens were an easy snatch. They had homes in no time. The first time I met mom-cat, we didn't bond. But the second time I knew the skinny little thing had to come home with me.
Lizzie Cosette. Elizabeth for the Queen; Cosette (named by Victor Hugo's number one fan, Rick) for the orphan adopted by Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables." (I guess that makes me Jeanie Valjeanie.)
Although, the other night as I was watching "Pride and Prejudice" on telly, I realized she has a lot of Lizzie Bennett in her, too.
Her big mouth -- she always has something to say and she is quick to take me to task!
I have taken to calling her "Lizzie One Note." At times, I think she should have been named after Ethel (Merman)
She loves to play in the blankets...
and dive under the pillows. 
And she was quick to learn Gypsy's sit-up trick.
The past few months have been a very rough go for me. I was so depressed about Gypsy. One would think she'd take that away with her antics and relieve that depression.
But they were so different. She made me miss Gypsy all the more.
But in time, we have become rather smitten with her. She's a loud purring bed buddy...
 
...a chatty companion...
...and has become a delightful office assistant.
So long as she doesn't get too close to the ribbons!
She has a variety of names -- Mademoiselle Cosette when she is playful...
 ...Elizabeth with a cautionary tone when the claws or teeth come out...
Lizzie One-Note for obvious reasons...
 
...Fizzy, busy, tizzy, dizzy Lizzie when she's in a playing frenzy...
 
...and Alley Cat when the street girl comes out.
I promise. I won't overdue on Lizzie posts. But bear with me for awhile! And say hello to Lizzie.

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