Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

So it has been a year. Not just “a” year, but “A” year, the kind of year that we will likely look back on and shudder about, and wonder about, and hopefully remember at all. Stress is a powerful amnesiac.

Anyway, here are 10 somewhat ridiculous and otherwise kinds of things I am thankful for this year.

10. I am not a turkey.

Really, on Thanksgiving that is a reasonable reason for gratitude.

9. I have teeth.

Yes, I like chewing. That is why I am not a smoothie fan, I so like to chew. And at Thanksgiving there are SO MANY tasty chewable things.

8. I am not vegan or vegetarian or on a low carb diet.

None of these are the end of the world, but I am grateful on this feasting day that I am omnivorous and that for whatever reason God has blessed me with an energetic metabolism. Phew. That is a mercy and I am grateful.

7. I don’t hate football…and not just because of “when in Rome” yadda yadda.

6. I still have a house, and electricity, and heat. Not everyone in Jersey does. I am grateful.

5. For pie.

4. For all my random phobias, anxieties, and neurotic tendency to panic/overreact at the slightest provocation, cooking and baking do not scare me at all. This is a blessing at this time of year.

3. My spouse likes to wash dishes. He is more than a little OCD about washing dishes. Winning!

2. For Parades with Balloons…a delight that Never Gets Old.

1. Finally, for family, friends, doctors—sometimes it’s hard to tell where one group ends and another begins…

A year ago we were truly on the brink. At Thanksgiving we were days away from one of the worst days ever for us, and I think some part of me knew that something was brewing…and that time was only the beginning of some of the worst months ever for us. We’ve moved from shell-shocked to having some peace in this new normal (at least most days). We’ve made it through a really hard year. So for everyone who has stood with us, we are grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! Now go chew something delicious. ; )

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Snack, How I Hope you Will Come Back

So Hostess is no longer the company with the mostess, and the prime sustenance for the zombie apocalypse, aka the Twinkie, will no longer be sold. I’ve heard that a box of Twinkies was going for $24 the other day on Ebay. Silly memes depicting “Never Forget! 11/16/12” with a picture of a Twinkie are all over the internet. And, since it is a pretty well established fact that I am a very high functioning sugar addict, I guess it’s not much of a surprise that I have something to say about this. Yes, I actually have a cookbook in which the main ingredient in EVERY RECIPE is a Twinkie. No lie.

See? I am so truthful.
But in the interest of full disclosure: I almost never eat Twinkies. My youngest didn’t even know what a Twinkie was when I mentioned that they would be gone Forever.

Wow, what a GOOD MOM I must be, right? My kid doesn’t even KNOW what a Twinkie is! Oh, the Maternal Awesomeness, right?

No. I am cheap.

Twinkies are flipping expensive, like $3.59 for 8 cakes that my firstborn son could polish off in about 4 seconds, which would then allow time for him to run for his life before I fully process what he has done (just like the time I found the EMPTY box of Girl Scout Samoa cookies in his room. A jury would acquit me, I am sure…)

So I never buy Twinkies unless I need something cylindrical for a kid cake (we had funny Larry the Cucumbers once made out of Twinkies. So cute, and a boon for the cake-decorating-challenged). They are just too darn expensive.

Soooo—if I don’t eat Twinkies (or the little choco cupcakes with the white squiggle, or fruit pies, or the Yule log ones –yodels? Hohos? Or is that the wrong brand version?—or Devil Dogs (ok, THOSE are nasty))…if I don’t eat them, why do I care?

I am cheap, admittedly, but I am also relentlessly nostalgic. I think the more smote my life has become, the more I cherish those happy things from a long time ago.

When I was a kid, my dad used to buy us the Hostess Snowballs every so often when we were out running errands with him. My children quickly learned the important life lesson that my siblings and I all learned years ago: running errands of any kind with Grandpa (or dad, for me) equals treat of some kind. And I distinctly remember getting those marshmallow/coconut Snowball cakes with my dad. I don’t even LIKE marshmallow anymore (yuck), but I loved that treat, that part of time with my dad, that tantalizing sense of you were getting a treat that mom would NEVER say yes to (my mom is a hard core frugalista, and when I was young she was in a wheat germ cookies kind of season for a while). Snowballs (and sometimes fruit pies) were a forbidden fruit that Dad said yes to, without any begging, he would just OFFER IT FREELY! Woo!

Hostess treats were one way our dad showed us he loved us.  And we knew it.

And in college, when I had zero dollars at any given time, and often tried to ease my anxiety by not eating ever quite enough (bad choice, I know that now), I knew for under a buck I could get a Hostess apple fruit pie at the little convenience store on campus, and joy would be mine.

When a neighbor was diagnosed with cancer, we brought over melons and other fruit for her…and a box of Twinkies for her spouse, who was wracked with worry and the pressure of care-giving…and who loved Twinkies. They were medicine for HIM.

And yes, I made my second born some Larry the Cucumber Twinkies for a birthday several years back, likely before our world got smote…I don’t quite remember.

About a month ago our supermarket had Hostess stuff on sale (should I have been worried then? Maybe). I saw those fruit pies, a lovely 8 pack for $1.88 . HOW COULD I REFUSE?? 50% off! So I didn’t. I bought them for myself, and I hoarded them, and ate them when I was having a really bad day (I paced myself, otherwise they would have been gone in a week), and I just enjoyed Every. Last. Bite.

Finally I got down to the last one, and I ate one pie in the pack and planned to share the last one with my youngest, to introduce her to that special kind of “sharing mom’s secret treat” moment…but then she took too long putting shoes away or something, and I ate the last one.

Yeah, aren’t you glad you didn’t slap that Good Mom gold star on me back in the early paragraphs?

It was delicious. I don’t even really feel that guilty. You can give me the mangy Bad Mom ill-fitting t-shirt. It’s ok, I have a bunch already, it will fit right in.

But I do regret that I won’t be able to share that moment with my youngest. I know, I can create it with another treat or something, but treats with history mean more somehow, they are like Legacy Treats. You can’t create this kind of memory over a kale smoothie or a vitamin (heck, my only vitamin memory with my kids involved a series of panic-stricken calls to poison control. But that’s another post). I know, I fully acknowledge that this is silly and superficial and really I should be reading my children the classics and crafting celery boats for snack while listening to Mozart…

But nothing quite beats the delectable satisfaction of the occasional special treat that you know is purely a TREAT, not a life choice. Twinkies and the pantheon of Hostess Cakes have always been one of those things for me….

And you know, I never did get to make that Twinkie sushi recipe in my Twinkies Cookbook. Dang. Wonder how the prices on Ebay are today?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jersey Lament

from Tuesday, 10/30

I type by the light of 2 battery “accent lights” from a 6 pack I got at Costco on Saturday, my back vaguely warmed by the sea of candles lighting the rest of my first floor. I cannot even upload this post, since we are without power, like most of New Jersey, and without power, I have no wireless internet…but I still have some computer battery left…so here I am.

Hurricane Sandy was, for us here on my street, a big storm punctuated by four hours of Really Scary --think 40 foot willow tree bending sideways in my yard as we heard pieces of our house peeling off. We lost power about 8 p.m. on October 29, just after the storm made landfall far to the south of us, near our beloved Cape May…where my onco kid conquered her exertion anxiety and climbed all 199 steps of the famous lighthouse just this past June. Within an hour of the power loss the winds picked up, the air sounded like a freight train even from the safety of our candlelit living room. From our somewhat protected back deck we could see the sky lighting up as transformers and wires danced explosively. The sound of it was something I have never really experienced before….

And we are miles and miles from the nearest coastline.
This morning I was afraid to look out the window…but in the breezy stillness and light rain I could see that the willow, while maimed once again, was still standing. We lost 2 gutters and 3 pieces of metal trim literally peeled off the roofline of our house (the longest twisted piece of metal is about 7 feet long)…but aside from that, and a carpet of branches, we were remarkably unscathed. Our entire neighborhood was remarkably unscathed, one dead tree had fallen in the space between 2 neighbors’ houses, but that was about it.

The three gourds someone lined up on our deck railing remained in a neat row this morning.

We are so lucky.

My spouse went out in search of coffee and a real bathroom (we have well water, so no power=no water, and only late this afternoon a neighbor with a generator hooked us up to their well so we can at least flush toilets and wash hands), and saw the extent of the damage near us…trees down everywhere. Wires down everywhere. Houses hidden by fallen trees. Poles and wires tangled and blocking roads. It’s a mess. We found out that a good friend who lives about a ½ mile away had significant damage to their home and property. My work (a school) had 14 trees down on the campus, and the streets around it are impassable because of downed utility poles. Friends around the country were texting me, but I could hardly get my texts to go out, the networks are overloaded here or something…

And then we managed to find some radio coverage of what was going on…

Our poor New Jersey got flattened.

Being disconnected from information NOW is so frustrating, so deeply frustrating. See, Jersey is a really small state. Freakishly small. So when news reports talk about Hoboken or Jersey City, we remember when we went to dinner there…or a reporter stands on a windy beach in Point Pleasant, my youngest remembers when Daddy got to chaperone her class trip to the aquarium there…or the camera pans to Atlantic City, I think of the fun I had with my sisters on my 40th birthday trip there, or how I went there with a friend on my first grown up vacation when I was barely 21. Seaside Heights? My first NF Endurance race. Lavallette? Where my parents vacation every summer. Newark? Great time at a Devils game, or where my girls got to see Taylor Swift in concert. Hey, that reporter is right by where we did the Polar Plunge for Camp Sunshine last February!

Jersey is small. If somewhere is on the news, unless it’s the far southwestern portion (that’s a tad less accessible to northern Jersey folks), we’ve been there, and generally had fun there, or we have friends who live there, or a neighbor works there….

Sigh. Sandy threw a smackdown on our neighborhood, both locally and our little state.

Getting specks of information, not being able to get cell phones to connect, not seeing what is going on…knowing that all of our favorite places are not just struggling but likely obliterated…it’s appalling and frustrating and scary.

I know we are tough here, it’s what Jersey is famous for, in some respects, that “fugghedaboudit” attitude that is so easily parodied. But under that, just like under any tough shell, is a deep love for this crazy little state. We accept being the punchline of jokes because we know the truth about the gems that lie just beyond the famous Turnpike. We know that we have invented all sorts of unique and impressive forms of corruption here, of double dealing, of stupid laws, of personality stereotypes, of insane home prices and cost of living, of food (ok, our food is awesome)…but beyond ALL of that ridiculousness, we love this place.

I know I will cry when I finally see the pictures, the pictures of this state I love, this state I call home. I don’t have it in me (in the dark of my powerless house) to burst into inspirational song about triumph over adversity…this one hurts. It does. The scope of this is so huge, and our state is so small, it’s our home, every corner of it is kind of in our backyard.

But we are Jersey proud. And we will get through this, even if it seems sooooooo clich├ęd to say that right now. So Sandy…we know you threw your best at us, and you knocked us down, and yeah, you flattened us…but are we going to just lick our wounds and hide in the Meadowlands with Jimmy Hoffa somewhere?