Not This Time

His charisma, that mad genius, that sense of humor, his boyish curiosity, shirt-off-his-back love of mankind, his smile, his sweet heart, this was the man I knew, the man I fought for to stay – a little longer. All of this could not temper the wild swings that ultimately came – up then down – never knowing how long we’d have him steady – cramming in as much life as we could, for we knew the down was coming soon – maybe in the next hour, the next minute. We’d resurface, taking gasping breaths to continue swimming upstream – he still lost his life.

The dizzying moods, that plagued, that lurked like the monster under the bed. Watching, waiting, gripping, pulling him. Married to addiction, that curbed the pain. The war raged on until the cease fires. So many cease fires. We fought for them. How long would the peace last this time? Will these meds work? Will this therapist cut through the barbed wire? Both of us smiling, acting the part  – no one knew the pain, the anger, the deterioration. We’d seal the cracks, the leaks in the boat as soon as they were visible – he still lost his life.

Despite years of trying to help him seek regular treatment. Despite two attempts to intervene that last year. Despite all the fights, the therapy and drug treatment, his self-medication of cheap beer and sleeping pills, the begging, the promises, the lies we wanted to believe, the children – he still lost his life.

I found him New Year’s Day, our son’s baby book next to him – quiet. He always slept hard, slept deep, when he slept at all. I was angry. Yet another broken promise, “I’ll be in bed by 2am, baby. You won’t wake up alone again.”  I called to him. Nothing. Not unusual. I would often call to him three, four, fives times before he stirred. Nothing. I stepped forward into the light. Staring back, the monster under the bed, the one that lurked, the one that threatened – finally caught him, pulled him under. I couldn’t save him. I wasn’t there to pull him back – not this time.

It will be ok. It will be ok. It will be ok…it’s not ok.

Bipolar Disorder.

What more could I have done – differently?

I wish this was dramatized, an over-exaggeration. Support groups call people like me, my children “survivors”. We are left to survive the aftermath. To pick up the wartime pieces. Five years later, the door is still ajar. While I have chosen a path of happiness, the path that I lead my children down daily, the past is still with us. I watch over my children for signs of the monster, a 20% chance. Adolescence is its blooming period. We talk, we smile, we laugh, we have drawn our own conclusions through truth. When they were young, it was Little Golden Book discussions of suicide and death. Today, it’s frank, raw, mixed with tight embraces and hysterical laughter. Most times we remember his smile, the mad genius, the candy bought while I wasn’t looking, the forts on the sofa, workshop creations, the vegetable garden, that delicious chicken soup, his love. All this out of reach of the monster now.

You may not enter here, sir. He’s not yours to keep.

This is our small victory.

Yet the battle still rages, the monster lurks – for others – so for them we keep fighting.

Maybe?

Not this time.

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Five Kernels

DSC_2066Growing up in New England, Thanksgiving was a holiday of particular pride as many of the area’s ancestors hailed from Pilgrim stock, especially those affiliated with the Congregational churches throughout the Northeast.  My Dad was the Senior Minister of one of the oldest Congregational churches in Connecticut (founded in 1639).  It was the meetinghouse, worship center and municipal office of the city, and for many years, the surrounding counties.  To say First Church has “Pilgrim Pride” is an understatement.  The church has been through hell and back many times in its history with fires, disease epidemics and warring factions within its own walls.  But just as the Pilgrims had done, the people struggled through, survived and came out stronger, more grateful.

Thanksgiving was Dad’s favorite holiday. I never realized why this one day held such significance for him until I reached adulthood.  Our extended family lived in New Hampshire and Alabama, so our table was shared by friends, church members and those seeking shelter from life’s storms.  From the very beginning of the day to its end, Dad lived this holiday; Breathing in the wonderful aromas wafting through the house as the turkey roasted in the oven, cherishing the time spent with our nuclear family, preparing the table for its occupants. He spent hours polishing old family silver, setting out family china and crystal as well as arranging the truly splendid centerpieces that always adorned our tables during the holidays. Every inch of Thanksgiving was poured onto that table just as it had been done in his family for generations.  Nothing was left unpolished, unironed or to chance.  To the outsider, our family must have looked incredibly wealthy with all of our fineries and grand 3-story historic colonial.  But that was an illusion. The tableware, cherished family heirlooms passed down from generation-to-generation. The home, owned by the church, we but its mere keepers.  The real richness of our Thanksgiving involved the people who surrounded our table, each hand-selected.

As we were seated for our meal, the turkey was brought out and set at its place of honor. Dad would say the Blessing, which consisted of poignant words describing how we were all feeling. Nothing was ever lost on my Dad, so before we got down to the business of eating, he would point to the most unassuming part of our place setting, five tiny kernels of dried corn set at the top. To most the corn kernels were simply decorative, a seasonal touch to the grand table.  However, the meaning behind those kernels was anything but simple and embodied what Thanksgiving really meant to those who endured the first harsh winters here in America. To my Dad, it went deeper than legend.

The story goes that the Pilgrims invited the nearby chief and some of his braves to join them in a feast of Thanksgiving for helping the settlement sustain life through hunting and farming techniques unique to the New World.  When the natives arrived, they quickly realized there were many more people to feed than anticipated.  The Pilgrims shared what they had with their new friends and were grateful that their guests had brought meat and taught the women how to prepare maple syrup and cook a native treat, popcorn, made from corn kernels.  Once the natives had left the settlement, reality set in…there would not be enough food to last the winter.  The Pilgrims needed to ration – eventually down to five kernels of corn per person.  Despite the meager meal, they lifted prayers up to God in thanks for the food in front of them.  After 14 days of prayer and rationing, the chief arrived again, however this time he came with many more Braves and much more food. The first course served, five kernels of corn, a reminder of the suffering the Pilgrims had endured, the prayers that were answered, and the reassurance that God will provide. Simply put, Thanksgiving was not about a meal but a diverse community of people paying homage to one another FOR one another.

My Dad believed in the “Pilgrim Promise”.  He believed that those five tiny kernels symbolized the Grace of God, strangers who became trusted friends, community. It served as a reminder to be thankful even for the meager meals.  Those kernels, that story, set the tone at our table every Thanksgiving.  There were many years our family had very little money but my parents managed to find a way to buy the groceries and clothing we needed.  I know it wasn’t easy for them.  What we lacked in money, our family made up in love.  There was plenty of that in our home; enough for our nuclear family and beyond.  It is for this reason, I believe, my parents opened their home every year to friends, church members and even strangers who otherwise had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving. And even if they did, maybe it was a way to say thank you for a kindness they had shown my family that year.

After my Dad’s death in 2009, those five kernels of corn are still set atop each place setting, we still invite friends and those seeking shelter from the storms of life to join us. The kernels have become the most beautiful adornment, outshining the lacy china and polished silver. Each person who joins in our Thanksgiving receives this gift – Grace. So remember to give thanks for those people in your life who have shown you Grace (however you define it), for those who love you for you, for your family whether they be related or not. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

My Week with the Ford C-Max Energi

LogoCmaxWhen I was presented with the opportunity to test drive and blog about a car from Allan Vigil Ford in Morrow, GA, I thought, sure, why not!  My husband, Paul, and I have been talking about trading in our 2003 Saturn Ion for a hybrid this summer. The Saturn has done us well but it’s time to upgrade our one-car family with something that suits our needs now; not to mention a healthier option for the environment.

Living in Atlanta means one thing…you own a car. You plan your trips to the store, dinner, meetings, wherever you go around traffic. It’s a reality we live with every day in this city. And as a busy family of four, we do a great deal of driving despite working from home. Paul and I want something that will not only provide the necessary space we need to haul children, two dogs and ourselves around, but provides us with great fuel economy and environmental piece of mind. Enter Ford’s 2013 C-Max Energi, a hybrid-electric you can plug in…at home!

Here are some of the features we loved during our week with the C-Max Energi:

The Energi comes with a charging port and 3-pronged plug.  It takes about 7 hours to fully recharge using a 120v outlet or under 2.5 hours using a community charging station or a 240v outlet which comes with at-home charging stations. The rim around the outside of the port illuminates to show you the progress. When recharged, the rim is completely blue.

Status

You can drive up to 62 mph in electric mode! Yes, you read that right. They say owning a hybrid-electric changes the way you drive; making you more aware of how you accelerate, brake, turn, even your speed. It’s hard not to watch the gauges as braking returns power to the battery or see how long you can drive without the gas engine kicking in.

Backseat

Spacious!

This seemingly compact car on the outside is not so compact on the inside. Ideal for bratty little brothers and annoying big sisters. The “no-touching zone” in the C-Max Energi’s backseat is such a relief. It even comes with a “room divider” (aka arm rest/cup holder). My 5’11”, long-legged husband also loved the spacious head and leg room.

Hatch2

Hatch

Cargo space holds wide boxes as well as the most delicate of plants.

The backseat is a 60/40 split for those times you need to haul large pieces of lumber, like for our raised-bed vegetable garden.

Console

Love the placement of the gear-shift, steering column gauges and center console. All common sense. Something I’ve always found Ford masters beautifully.

For those vertically-challenged people, such as myself, I found the C-Max Energi to be a wonderful compromise between a sedan and an SUV. It’s compact, easy to maneuver and has great acceleration yet it rides higher up off the ground than most small cars. It’s pretty zippy too; an unusual quality in hybrid-electrics.

These features alone will make Ford a competitor in the alternative-power vehicle market.  Shhh…we even test drove another “shall-remain-nameless” hybrid-electric to compare the two cars side-by-side. The C-Max Energi won hands down for our family.

Gas:electric

After 7 days of mostly in-town driving, the C-Max Energi had used just over a 1/4 tank of gas. And I mean, JUST over. We averaged about 38-39 mpg. Not bad for two newbies to hybrid-electric driving in Atlanta traffic.

Alas, our week was up and we reluctantly drove the C-Max Energi back down to Allan Vigil.

Thanks to Allan Vigil Ford in Morrow for allowing us to test drive the C-Max Energi! Your wonderful staff was so gracious and helpful, answering all of our questions. Cheers to Allan Vigil Ford for finding our next car!

C-MaxEnergi

2013 Ford C-Max Energi

Coffee in Five Courses at The Third Space Atlanta

6535424631-5Love coffee? Love damn fine food? Love chocolate? Then this class is for you!

Join my friend Jason Dominy of Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters- Atlanta as he schools you in coffee while you feast on the delicious food pairings by Chef Eddie Russell of Parish Atlanta and the delectable chocolates by Kristen Hard of Cacao Atlanta – Bean to Bar Chocolate A learning experience not to be missed for coffee lovers.

You’ll never look at coffee the same way again. 

 
Thursday evening • May 23rd • 6:30-8:30 • The Third Space in the Old Fourth Ward-Studioplex.

Go here to sign up –>> http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6535424631/eorg

STAPLEHOUSE: Kicking Cancer’s Ass While Giving Back

staplehouse_logoCulinary. Cancer. Community. These three words have come together in a most extraordinary way over the last six months. On December 21, 2012, Chef Ryan Hidinger of STAPLEHOUSE  (an underground supper club) was dealt a life-changing blow.  After weeks of feeling poorly, thinking he had caught a nagging stomach virus, he and his wife, Jen, went to the doctor to find out the cause of his pain. What they heard was beyond shocking. Stage IV gallbladder cancer. Ryan is only 35 years old.

Ryan and Jen had been planning since the inception of STAPLEHOUSE to turn this venture into their dream restaurant. They had selected the building, and the wheels were in motion to begin a new chapter in their lives. Within minutes, all of that came crashing down around them. The Hidingers would have to put everything on hold. But what happened within days of the diagnosis was truly extraordinary, and speaks volumes of Atlanta’s culinary community. Fundraisers were set up in their name to help cover the enormous cost of treating this rare form of cancer. Donations were pouring in from all over the country. And with that, Team HIDI was born thanks to family, friends, chefs, restauranteurs and Atlanta’s diners.

Six months later, the fundraising has transformed not only the lives of the Hidingers but the future of STAPLEHOUSE. Today, Ryan is fighting (and winning) a fierce battle against cancer thanks to the generosity of the Atlanta dining community.  Demonstrating tremendous Grace, Ryan and Jen (along with their family and friends, such as Chef Ryan Smith of Empire State South) have revitalized STAPLEHOUSE, turning it into a purpose-driven restaurant which will help raise funds for those in the culinary community experiencing financial hardships.

Please join the Hidingers in making their dreams reality, and help them give back to the community who has given them the hope and strength to kick cancer’s ass!

To learn more about STAPLEHOUSE and The Giving Kitchen, or to donate, visit www.staplehouse.com/ or www.indiegogo.com/projects/staplehouse-a-purpose-driven-restaurant.

team-hidi-logo

Upcoming Events in Support of STAPLEHOUSE and The Giving Kitchen:

Rootbeerpalooza!

May 16, 2012 at Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters- Atlanta from 7-9pm. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/587633497922620/

Memorial Day Pig Roast

May 26, 2012  at the home of Jason Apple (Atlanta Food Blogger Sociey, The Kitchen Man Can and Kitchen Fronts of Georgia) from 4:30 pm – until we get kicked out.

https://www.facebook.com/events/101914930013294/

Red Pepper Taqueria Industry Night

Beginning May 13th, every Monday from 10p-12a through May and June, Red Pepper Taqueria will donate 10% of sales from Industry Night to The Giving Kitchen!

http://www.eatredpepper.com/

Dining Out for Team Hidi:

A percentage of sales from your meal will be donated to Team HIDI at the following restaurants: Muss and Turners, Local Three and Empire State South

What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking

mrs-fisher

I have always been fascinated by food history and, in particular, Southern food history. There is something about knowing where your food comes from that excites me, as if I have been let in on a special secret. I’m not talking about just what farm on which your vegetables were grown or how your pork was raised, but really knowing how the dishes you prepare each night, the old family recipe kept locked away in a decaying book, the one dish that defines your entire childhood came into being.  There’s a story behind it all; a beginning, a middle and a never-ending. But nowhere can you find more history, a chance to glimpse at the daily life of yesteryear, than a vintage cookbook. These books to me are the Old Testament of food, filled with poetic preludes, kitchen law and folklore, nearly extinct ingredients and antiquated cooking methods. The pages call out to the reader, enticing, tantalizing, waiting for someone to recreate a dish or learn a forgotten technique modern kitchen appliances have made obsolete.

Most vintage Southern cookbooks were written by former matriarchs of large plantation families, while others by women of humbler means like those on the farms that covered the varied landscape of the South, and still others by the many city slicker Leagues of Atlanta, New Orleans or Charleston. However, for me, the most fascinating cookbooks are those by African American women living prior to 1940. Pages upon pages of dishes and recollections which followed their families through slavery and into the almost as cruel Jim Crow era.  It is in these books that we learn of their daily diet, the various plants and animals grown on their tiny plots of land, how they survived on little yet always seemed to perform the miracle of the 5 loaves and 2 fishes regularly.  You can almost hear them speaking to you as you read aloud the recipes written in their distinct vernacular. A history lesson wrapped in food, etymology, seasons and culture.

I recently stumbled upon the cookbook What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking through a friend of mine after discussing our mutual love of Southern food in an historical context. As we nerded out over our affinity for vintage African American recipes, it became apparent that I needed to add this lovely to my growing collection. Yes, I am becoming the crazy cookbook lady.

Abby Fisher is said to be the first ex-slave to write a cookbook. She had moved to San Francisco from Mobile, AL after the war with her husband and began to cook and cater for the various wealthy families of the city. With the help of the Women’s Co-operative Printing Office of San Francisco, Mrs. Fisher published her many recipes in 1881 which included dishes like Ochra Gumbo, Corn Fritters and Chow Chow. It is likely she had the recipes transcribed for her as it is said she was mostly illiterate.  Her story is now a part of Southern history and the food she cooked preserved forever in print for the next generation. 

And just like that, Amazon has notfied me that my copy of What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking has shipped.

Awaiting your arrival, Mrs Fisher. In a mere two days, my kitchen will soon be yours.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1557094039/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

Attention Southern Writers and Journalists! Submission Call!

From Managing Editor of Twisted South Magazine:

“Twisted South is currently accepting submissions for previously unpublished short fiction, nonfiction, flash pieces/vignettes, book/album and music reviews, and historical essays. All work must exemplify an eccentric aspect of contemporary or historical Southern culture. Please limit your work to 2500 words except for flash fiction and book reviews which should be limited to 500 words. Book reviews should be on a book that showcases eccentric Southern culture or a Southern author. We like Barry Hannah, Rick Bragg, Flannery O’Connor, and Larry Brown, to name a few.

We’re looking for pieces that exemplify Southern culture whether it’s the sinister underbelly tales of obscure juke-joints to the cufflink charm of high-class aristocracy. We want pieces that speak to our readers in a voice that exemplifies the South’s hardships, triumphs, social attitudes, labors, humor and truths. If it’s eccentrically Southern, we want to read it.

Send submissions to: twistedsouthlit@gmail.com. Please include a brief bio of no more than 250 words with your submissions. Also, include the type of work you’re submitting in the subject line (short, flash, etc.). Simultaneous submissions are welcome provided you notify us as soon as the work is accepted elsewhere. Please allow 3-6 weeks for reply.”

Nutritious Secrets

My CSA was full of color this past week as we begin to transition from the cold of Winter to the rebirth of the land as Spring approaches. There is so much beauty in the vegetables and fruits grown on the farm, but the vibrant colors hold nutritious secrets. Secrets that gift us with life, longevity and in some cases, a healing touch.
photo (85)Speckled Butter Beans
Rich in protein, good carbs and fiber as well as iron, copper, folate, phosphorus, thiamin and magnesium.

Those with sulfite sensitivities found in processed foods will find that eating molybdenum-rich foods like butter beans may help counteract the effects of sulfites and decrease side effects like dizziness and headaches.

Sweet Potato 

A super food, rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C due to its dense, orange flesh.

The pretty color of this root veggie carries with it many health benefits including anti-inflammatory properties, lowering of blood sugar levels and in a recent discovery, has proven to possess anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties as well.

photo (84)Green Squash
Rich in vitamin C, B6 and fiber due to the lovely green skin.

Although a starchy veggie, the green squash is full of antioxidants with links to blood sugar regulation. Leave the skin on to receive the most benefit opting to steam or sauté it instead.

 

This week’s box also included local winter greens, oranges and tangerines as well as mushrooms and beets. But these are three of my most favorite vegetables to eat during this transitional period between Winter and Spring.