Friday, July 22, 2011

A Big ‘ol Emotion in This Emotionless World

"Tears," photograph by Man Ray (1932)

What do you perceive as your best quality as a human being? How about the most limiting? For me and many others the answer is the same to both questions.
I would never trade being a sensitive and emotional woman though it can come with a price tag that is a challenge to absorb. Yet it also allows me to be a compassionate and giving person, one who forgives easily and intuits other’s feelings and needs. This sensitive little creature of the universe feels the bruises of life’s challenges and disappointments on a profound level. Often too deeply I’m told. 
The quest to find a balance--one that embraces my sensitivity and compassion but honors the reality and the limitations of emotions gone awry--continues one day at a time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Freshly Ironed Sheets, with Love from Mom

Mom utilizes two presses so she can more efficiently iron sheets.

My Mom genuinely thrives on doing special things for her children. 
I’m blessed and fortunate that my mother is still living. Since my father’s death almost six years ago I know the wretched pain of losing a parent. That said, I am so lucky that Mom is healthy and we live only a few miles apart--in both of our hometowns. She’s a spectacular person who like most fine things only gets better with age.
Mom is the master of the ironing press. Recognizing this might sound like gloating: I sleep on exquisite ironed sheets every night! It is a heavenly experience and once there, impossible to go back to everyday linens. Since her accident in May my used sheets continue to pile up; I’m down to two sets of previously ironed sheets. Mom does it all--bottom sheet, top sheet, and pillow cases. It’s a craft. The final version looks like a piece of artwork.
A friend once told me that Jackie O insisted on freshly ironed sheets every day, even if she only took a nap. When I relayed this to my Mom who is no fan of the Kennedy clan, she immediately responded: “Then you certainly deserve ironed sheets.”
I’m off to take my pile of used sheets to the dry cleaner even though Mom found their work only adequate. Several weeks ago I caught her at her press trying to correct the spots where the “professionals” missed.
Ah.... the guilty pleasure!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Homegrown Tomatoes by Guy Clark

Sometimes my blog gets bogged down with topics that reflect my feelings of drowning in the heaviness of every day living. I started this blog to help me both process the death of my brother last fall and to celebrate and remember his life in pictures and stories. Regardless, I strive for a variety of topics, All Things Important if you will.
On that note, what could be more important in mid-July than Homegrown Tomatoes. Frankly, I can’t remember the first time I heard this song by Guy Clark or when I started playing it every summer while preparing a BLT or batch of gazpacho. It creates the perfect mood and brings a smile to my face every time. Turn it up next time you enjoy your homegrown tomatoes, either from your backyard or the local Farmer’s Market.

Guy Clark singing "Homegrown Tomatoes" (2010)

Lyrics: It is impossible to hear this song and not want to sing along!

Ain't nothin' in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin' out in the garden
Get you a ripe one don't get a hard one
Plant `em in the spring eat `em in the summer
All winter with out `em's a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin' & diggin'
Every time I go out & pick me a big one
Homegrown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes
You can go out to eat & that's for sure
But it's nothin' a homegrown tomato won't cure
Put `em in a salad, put `em in a stew
You can make your very own tomato juice
Eat `em with eggs, eat `em with gravy
Eat `em with beans, pinto or navy
Put `em on the site put `em in the middle
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle
If I's to change this life I lead
I'd be Johnny Tomato Seed
`Cause I know what this country needs
Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see
When I die don't bury me
In a box in a cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin' up homegrown tomatoes

Friday, July 8, 2011

John Woods Wilson

John Wilson, Britt Wilson, Ann Rogers

My first really close friend at the University of Kentucky died on Tuesday evening. John Woods Wilson grew up in Anchorage, Kentucky, living his life by his own design. When I met John he seemed larger than life: so handsome, athletic, exciting, and warm. I remember pinching myself, thinking why someone so “cool” would spend so much free time with me? Twenty-five years later and so many miles and experiences between us, I know why. We never let go of our friendship. The last two times I talked to him, this past Thanksgiving and a longer conversation in January 2011, will always be etched in my memory. He called because he cared and he knew the feeling was mutual. With both of us struggling, we each listened to the other with compassion, knowing that life can be cruel but it is a beautiful thing to experience. He told me about his faith in God, I think a bit hesitantly, until I assured him that we both had evolved with our faith.
John took me to my first Grateful Dead concert. I remember driving from Missouri to Kentucky in late June after my freshman year, not knowing what I would see or experience. I clearly remember John telling me with a grin, “you’re a dead head, you just don’t know it yet.”  It was perhaps the best Dead show I ever attended, probably because of John and Britt, John’s closest friend from high school. Later, when an aspiring student journalist for the Kentucky Kernel (UK’s student newspaper) wanted a picture to accompany his article on the Grateful Dead the three of us agreed. I managed to find the picture in a shoe box but the article itself, with quotes from the three of us, has disappeared over the last quarter of a century.
My dear friend’s life changed drastically in the Spring of 1988 when he was victim of a traumatic brain injury outside of the old Lynagh's Pub on Limestone. He was punched by a UK football player with John hitting his head full force against the concrete curb. My good friend went on to accomplish amazing things despite the life-long problems this injury caused him. He graduated with a biology degree, married, fathered two precious children, and worked hard to provide for his family and better himself. John and his father Tom are together in heaven where all is right and good. 

If I spent even a fraction of the time studying as I did playing hacky sack my first couple of years of college, I would have saved my parents some serious headaches. John often said "I was the best girl hacker he ever knew." If you look closely you can see the hacky sack mid-air right above my silver Monte Carlo. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Karma of Gazpacho

Though I can’t remember the first time I tasted cold gazpacho soup, I know for certain it was the single recipe that I took to college. Now, 25 years later, it is one of the only recipes that I pull from my box. The card wears the signs of its long journey: bent ears, small red splatters, and smeared writing from sitting to close to the cutting board. Gazpacho is clearly my favorite summertime treat.
This past Saturday morning, the women’s final at Wimbledon altered my plans. I always start at the Farmer’s market, hoping to get certain items before they sellout. Thanks to the tennis, I hit the market during the last hour. As expected the fresh trout and greens were gone, two favorites and the remaining stands looked sparse. I was on a hunt for cheap tomatoes, ones that might not be perfect but sell for $2 a pound rather than $3, with no luck. Just as I gave up hope, I turned to hear a bright “good morning” from an Amish man who had the familiar Bible verse (Psalms 118:24) on the sign to his stand: “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” We exchanged a bright smile and a few kind words. I looked down and his wife sat in the backend of their truck separating out tomatoes. A pile had accumulated of the less than perfect tomatoes.
“How much for those tomatoes,” I said, pointing to the pile. “They are not for sale,” he replied gently. I nodded. He then said, “But I would love to give them to you if you want them.” My eyes widened and I assured him I was looking for tomatoes that I could afford in quantity to make gazpacho. The bearded man in his top hat filled several bags with over 20 homegrown tomatoes that bore a slit or a bruise and handed them to me without a word. Stunned, I promised him that I would pay it forward and make gazpacho with his tomatoes and share it with fellow lovers of the cold soup. He smiled, tipped his hat, and said “have a wonderful day young lady.”

Aunt Mary’s Gazpacho Soup
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber
1/4 cup green pepper
1/4 white onion
1 cup V-8 juice
2 cloves of garlic
1 celery stalk
2 tbs fresh parsley
fresh lemon juice
garlic salt, pepper to taste
Blend ingredients and then add 2 tbs of olive oil and a dash or two of white wine if available. Blend again and chill.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Little Angel, Little Brother

I'm uncertain what I miss the most: the memories of my brother from summers past or the fact that we can't make new ones this summer, or ever. Jim will be with me at the fireworks stand, one of his guilty pleasures each summer, and as I celebrate with plenty of fire in the sky. Little Angel, Little Brother--I miss your sense of humor and your rugged good looks.
Jim's Last Cardinals Game
Jim took in a Cardinals game with his close friend Dan Riepe (a diehard Cubs fan). They met up with brothers Hartley and John and by all accounts many great memories were made that summer evening.

Jim's Last Vacation
Santa Barbara, Calif. and a Side Trip to See the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Jim traveled with his best friend--his Mom--in Summer 2010.