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Hungry?

27 Nov

It is the Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA and so it seems fitting at this time that I write about food and hunger, though this is a thought process that has been in the works for a while now…

When I was around nineteen years old I had the wonderful opportunity to live with my grandmother Ella and grandfather Greg for nearly a year. During that time, I became engaged to marry my husband and thus had domesticity on the brain. Living under the influence of Ella was fortuitous and her mark was evidenced in my own nuclear family for many years. She taught me many basics of cooking which lent their foundations to my spring-boarding recipes. And so my children, friends, nieces and nephews, neighbors and more knew me to be a creative and consistent cook.

*I have to take a side step here, for I know my mom (Margie) reads this blog and will be chiding the computer screen with a “hey, what about me?” type question. My mom is an amazingly creative and gifted culinary master in her own right. Unfortunately for her, I liked only white rice and plain pasta noodles during my formative years. Her cooking left me stuck at the kitchen table as a young girl for hours past the dinner meal, staring at and stirring my grub. I have vivid memories of her pea soup, which now I would relish, but then I thought was some ancient torture ritual and I the prisoner of circumstance. I learned a few tricks of the trade during that time–swallowing peas like pills so as not to taste them and lopping up my food with napkins, burying them down in the bottom of the trash “unrecoverable.” And though it would seem I am the reluctant beneficiary of her talents, I see her in myself and my preferences more and more. I am thankful for her influence though she didn’t find in me the opportunistic learner that her mom did. Now back to the story at hand.

I am winding down in my 27th year of marriage (anniversary in February) and for 23 years of marital bliss I had the circumstance and opportunity to provide meals for my household always with a nutritional and creative lens. I viewed the kitchen as my “lab.” Understanding the chemistry of ingredients and how they react one with another lent for some masterpieces and some flops. I came up with creative ways to serve my husband and children vegetables that they found palatable as well as low-sugar desserts and some high sugar ones as well. Under my grandmother’s influence I started off the culinary arts with a high fat dependence upon butter, cheese and Campbell’s soups. But the more ground I gained as dietician to the Bent family, the “Margie factor” crowded out the Ella influence and hydrogenated fats in the soups were replaced by a love of olive oil and international ingredients. I studied nutritional journals and published papers, kept charts of the nutritional values in different vegetables, fruits, grains and meats, and used this information to better understand the influence food has on the body. I took inventory from my troops of the nutrients they consumed in a day and planned menus to provide variety and diversity of ingredients for the holistic picture. I believed (and still do) that our nutrients are best derived from food and not supplements, so diversity of food has been key in healthy living.

*I must side step again as I find it so ironic when I write or speak about my views on health or faith, because my son died of a brain tumor so I realize that my investment in food and prayer are not exactly the poster child one hopes for, as far as outcomes are concerned…sometimes I wonder if I should have embraced soda and fried chicken! Forgive me as I digress.

Getting back to the subject at hand, which the mention of my deceased will help me to do, is to say that I have spent a good and consistent part of my life creating and being inspired to cook. Which is why, since the loss of Cole, I find it strange that I don’t even feel hunger. My creativity is lost somewhere inside of my struggle to live in loss. My palate craves nothing and my body needs little. This is not to say I dislike food, on the contrary, I do like food-I guess. But my taste is simplistic at best. I am satisfied by an avocado for lunch. Or fish and rice. An artichoke for breakfast along with my coffee is more satisfying than an iconic spread. I now walk the produce section of a grocery store in wonder, with no inspired thought. Oh yes, I know I enjoy sauteed mushrooms but with what? I don’t know and don’t care. I don’t want pasta, but bought a package to have on hand this past week for my young cousin who was visiting. My husband is often eating cereal for dinner as I have no offerings to provide (unless in his ambition he heats up a hotdog and canned beans) and prepackaged meals gross me out. Even salad, usually a favorite of mine, is common place. I assemble one often for lunch because I know this is the type of fuel that works well for my constitution but I don’t crave a certain type. I even find that during the holidays, when hosting at my house, I struggle to think of what others would want and enjoy. I don’t snack and my beverage of choice is water. By my own assessment, I have become quite dull. In full disclosure, this past week I did eat 7 sticky buns (Ella’s recipe courtesy my sister who keeps this family recipe/tradition alive) but declared it my dinner and left everyone else to fend for themselves. On Thanksgiving I bought the ingredients to ensure the traditionalists were happy, but I myself, had not one bite of turkey and ate very little from the side dishes as I felt no pang of hunger. In fact as I sit here and write, Brian (my love) is asking if I’d like a stuffed potato for dinner–his treat courtesy the local barbecue restaurant–to which I give an emphatic “no!” …I’m not hungry and I don’t want to eat.

Living in loss, with loss, can make one feel quite lost. The person I have known myself to be is missing and with her is the desire for food. I eat out of a knowledge base to fuel the body (except for the sticky bun extravaganza which is more of a nod to past practice than anything else) and prefer to have food in its natural state such as rice, fish and vegetables (and I suppose a potato would work). When I think I am craving a food, as soon as I see it, the desire dissipates. I am not fond of this disconnect. But then again I am not a fan of this life without my son in it. So there you have it, my soapbox on food, hunger and grief just as my husband asks me again with a boy-like enthusiasm “are you hungry and ready for dinner?” I of course restate my first answer, but in yielding to the knowledge that fuel is a necessary agent for living, relented and promised to wrap up this post so we can talk dinner (or he can talk rather). I think in this regard a fairy god-mother of food would be helpful for me. I need a Rivka in my life who will assess my nutrient intake of the day, prepare the food I should eat, and tell me it is the only option. Sounds like I need a mom! I suppose this is a maternal retribution, Margie’s revenge…for I scorned her culinary influence once upon a time. Oh irony how thee doth sting.

Stuffed potato anyone?

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The Fringes

11 May

Today is the day set aside to recognize motherhood.  Mother’s Day, as it is so named.  As a mother in mourning I think most of my loved ones expected this day to be a hard one for me.  As it turns out, it is no more difficult than the everyday I make it through my sorrow and move onto the next.  As it turns out this day is most difficult for my daughter, the sister to my fallen son.  This is the day the two of them, TOGETHER, would plan and execute the details of ensuring I was without doubt of their devotion and honor.  I must say, they were quite good at it…my daughter still is.

But if the sorrow has hit anyone more than the other, today is her day.  Her brother, her partner in all things familial is missing from her equation and, for her, there is no way to avoid his absence this day.

For me–no matter where my children are I am still a mother.  Whether I can be with them or not, on this particular day, I am still a mother.  And in being a mother, my society honors me–just look at all the store sales happening this weekend in honor of this day.  Granted, being showered with blessings from my own children is not comparable on the same scale as saving a few bucks–it trumps the monetary gain tremendously!  But point being, there are no guarantees of being with ones children on this particular day and yet as a mother I still have opportunity to be acknowledged.  Not so for the sister, left hanging out on the fringes because the obvious position of the mourning mother obfuscates the internal bleeding of the sibling.  Of course I am receiving text messages, emails and calls reflecting supportive thoughts for me on this day, but she is not.

And now she is left to navigate the sentimentality of maternal love while being barraged with sorrow.  Her quandary’s resemble something like this:  Does she show her mother her angst and risk causing burden to her on what she is accustomed to believing is a “special day for her mom?”  How is she to push through the vacancy left by her dearly departed when this day keeps shoving her loss in every step of her path?

To add insult to injury, the death of our beloved Cole will make it’s first anniversary mark this coming week.  May 17, 2013 we received the dreaded news.

Today my husband is somewhat on the fringes as well.  He has lost his mom a few years ago and his grandmother shortly afterward, both of whom were two of his biggest fans.  He is quite without a large portion of his extended family, and yet today he is supposed to do two things, honor his own mother and honor his wife, the mother of his children.  Now he, too, is stuck with a day that serves as a great reminder to the many losses he is suffering.

My sister, Auntie to my children, is also the overlooked mourner.  The sufferer on the fringe who sits in the shadow of her sisters pain.

This is a tough day, to be sure.  But today, as a mother, I honor those who are not privileged to have a day which recognizes them in the manner that Mother’s Day recognizes me–in my mothering and in my loss.  My heart goes out to you, the sister, the aunt, the grandmother, the friend, the husband–my soul loves you.

Today, with this post, I honor Esther Bent, Brian Bent and Leah Smith–

Happy Mother’s Day!

Unintentionally Imperfect

28 Nov

I am sleep deprived today.  I was sleep deprived yesterday too, but today I’m “feeling” it.  The cause of my shut-eye deprivation was fear.  Grippingly, wrenchingly, nauseatingly, and awfully imposing was this terrorization of my soul.  Not to worry, my faith (which I have discovered is actually an action more than an idea, and translates as: trust in an unseen G-d and his Word as recorded in the Bible), has conquered my visitor from Hell.  Yes, the state of my being, while suffering the fool of being afraid, was something straight out of what my impression of Hell would be…a place devoid of the presence of my loving father.  Not a pleasure, I assure you.

I will bring you thru to the occult slowly, by traipsing back to the catalyst–which is actually quite wonderful and exhilarating…

My husband, Brian, and I have decided that an additional investment (aka:privilege), into our daughter’s education would be a worthwhile endeavor.  She is currently finishing up her second year of learning her third language, French.  And because she has weathered this past year and a half like a champ, we have decided to send her on a trip to France this January, during her one month respite from classes (though she will engage in studies while on her visit).

Now rewind to 1983 for the back-story which helps to illuminate my fearful state.  It was the aforementioned year and I was thirteen (funny, up until writing this post I held this memory as if I were 9 or 10 years of age…but now looking up facts smooths out the wrinkles of a hazy memory), for reasons still unknown to me now, I watched a movie about a little boy who was kidnapped from Sears while shopping with his mom.  And who was subsequently found murdered.  The little boy was Adam Walsh.  You might know the, made for TV movie, it was titled, “Adam”.  The account of this story of abduction rattled my young soul to the core, and its impact upon my mind was profound.  At that time I babysat my younger siblings (god brother and sister, for those of you who are thinking, “wait a minute, aren’t you the baby of the family?), with a new, keen awareness of evil.  I developed a philosophy and guideline for our public outings of, “If I can’t touch you, somebody else can!”, which I later applied to my own children, in their younger years.  Essentially, they were allowed to be within my arms reach and not further.  While raising my children I felt strongly that I’d rather lose them to a Mac truck then to have them (or me) live through the horrors of abduction.

In recent years, my aching heart is aware of stories of abduction through media coverage.  Specifically, the Chelsea King case.  There is a trail near my house that I like to walk the dogs on.  For some reason my heart hurts for her and her parents during one section of the terrain.  I always, and I mean ALWAYS, pray for the King family (and the parents of the perpetrator) during that leg of my hike…it’s kind of creepy, I admit!  In fact, there are occasions that I cannot complete that particular leg of the walk because my empathizing mind becomes too burdened by the evil which crossed the King’s path and fear then runs a muck within me.  You will still find me in prayer for the families, though my own insecurities are also being addressed at the same time.  And as fate would have it, I had the pleasure of interacting with the King family attorney this past summer.  He is a most gracious man with a truly empathetic and giving heart.  Anyway, this is my back story.  I do not normally walk in fear…at least that is what I thought.

In fact, this particular year I have declared, with my husband, it is a year of “NO FEAR”.  Now making this declaration seems simple enough…not so, not so.  For it has, in fact, acted as illuminator of the many, let me write it again, MANY underlying actions we take in life that are directly motivated by fear.  Example, when fighting cancer do not cook your vegetables…they are most effective when consumed in their natural state (what to do when raw vegetables are difficult for the cancer patient to ingest? Aaahhh Scary!).  And of course they can only be organic, and the quality of the soil and farm is integral to the nutrient content (but when one is on a strict budget, that rabbit hole has to be left for another fox to find…also scary).  Milk is bad and probably the cause of many illnesses (one friend of mine is convinced it is the origin of my migraine headaches, I am slightly afraid as I drink every last drop).  Cardiovascular exercise is important for longevity, but don’t forget strengthening techniques which help fight the naturally occurring degeneration of bone mass (if you don’t move you just might die–one day).  Don’t consume just any oil, it has to be cold pressed.  Or hard pressed, or who knows which one!  I don’t think you want me to get started on fish, the mercury content, and the wild vs. farmed issue.  How about the environmental issues.  Or sex before marriage issue, and the ‘must attend a university directly out of high school’ issue–or else!  Of course, at my age, the retirement fund and long term care insurance issues come into play.  As does the fear of disease and getting older.  Oiy Vay…fear has its roots in much of our life.  If we let it.  For the most part, I utilize my knowledge with a knowing that this physical life is a temporary one.  I do what I can, with what I have, and trust in the good Lord for the rest.  …and this last statement is coming from one (me) who thoroughly enjoys learning.

So with our 2012 no fear policy has come the facing of many root fears which have permeated our lives.  No matter, I like the purging…until this past week.  The week Brian and I decided to move forward with allowing Esther the opportunity to travel, on her own, to France.  As I shared our decision with a family member (whose travel booking advice I was after) she promptly suggested I, and Esther, watch the movie “Taken”.  Actually, I think I’ll expose her.  Only because she is such a squeaky clean individual that she needs a little soiling, just to keep the “chi” in balance. 🙂  It is my younger sister.  The one who suffered, as a little girl, the squeeze of my hand because I was under the influence of the Adam Walsh story.  The one who traveled, to France herself, when she was twenty, with a girlfriend.  So upon her advice I watched a 4 minute synopsis of the film.  And the wretched ax of terror hit me so hard I was shaking–honest–because this film has the underlying story of two girls who travel to Paris, are abducted and then sold into the sex slavery trade (last word hurts to even use–sorry, it’s late and I don’t want to take the time to correct it).  I was, after that, gripped.  My stomach was clenched with fear and my head a swirl with evil.  I somehow managed to get myself back to a quasi normal state, just enough to get some sleep.

However, the next night my daughter returned home from a work dinner party, where her 17th birthday was being honored.  Only instead of being showered with birthday blessings and wishes, she was being smothered with curses.  They went something like this, “Oh, you should watch that movie Taken.  You are so going to be taken, just like in that movie, because you are too nice.”  She came and shared that news with me as I was already tucked in bed and again at peace with her upcoming trip.  I will spare you from having to re-live the scenario with me, especially as the torment and mental torture I endured carried forth until the morning.  It was a horrific night.  And Brian, Esther, and I have had to thoroughly examine the circumstances of her travel arrangements, her host family, and the realities which come from living in an imperfect world.  Bottom line, our mantra of 2012 remains.  “No Fear.”  Because fear is a destroyer of life.  It might seem harmless while living in a vegetable, within imperfect soil, or even in the milk we drink (though the Center for Science in the Public Interest  doesn’t consider these things harmless, http://www.cspinet.org/).  Yet it likes to take hold of that which is biologically sound and squeeze from it the essence of being alive.

Though difficult as it may be for me to recover from my wrestling match with the devil, my daughter will travel to France this winter.  She will be blessed with as much opportunity as we can provide for her.  And she will know that no matter how hard it is for us, her father and I, to let go of her hand, we will allow her to bloom and grow.  And what of my little sis, my now-a-principal-of-a-high-school little sis, who first led me to the rocking of my soul movie trailer?  She is also the first to say to Esther, “just be aware and cautious, but most definitely go.”

This past year our Bent slogan was created because my husband has been suffering the fool of fear for a while.  I have been so tired from his own sleepless nights (as he insists upon my help through his torture) that I actually installed the “NO FEAR” policy as a measure of ‘risk management’.  This is probably my first time experiencing the robbing tactics of its presence.  And yet, today I purchased her airline tickets.  And today I share in her excitement.  …fear, don’t come around here no more.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

 

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