January 2013

I HATE WET CHEESE

It  was time to make food for the girls, and for some reason broccoli-cheese soup sounded good. Unfortunately, I haven’t found my favorite cookbook in my unpacking (still doing so), and had to rely in AllRecipes.com. Scrolled through about a dozen recipes and found the one that was closest to mine, went shopping, and started cooking.

One of the things I’m enjoying about this gig is getting to cook a couple of times a week, and this day was no exception. My body and heart hit the kitchen and started throwing things together; the girls got excited when the smells started to waft upstairs and started to pour into the kitchen to see what was going on. All of them were excited about my decision to make soup.

I thought back to friends of mine back in Oklahoma City who own a beautiful home on Wysteria Drive (yup, Wysteria Drive) in Gallardia. Dorothy doesn’t cook, and the kitchen was only added to the house for resale value. There’s never anything in the freezer or refrigerator, and the oven has never been used. They eat at the country club every single night. Over the years, I’ve thought about how sad it is that Dorothy has never experiened the joy of feeling the wooshy dough of a homemade bread between her fingers or the satisfaction of beating the hell out of it and calling it “kneading,” or experiencing the smells of food filling the house and bringing bodies into the kitchen to check out her creations. I’ve always felt that the kitchen of a home is the real living room. No matter how formal the party, people seem to end up congregating in the kitchen and snapping up samples as they’re being completed. And my mind went back to the years when Abbi’s friends (sometimes up to 30 at a time) spent weekends at the house “helping” me cook and bake. There are still kids who would walk into my home and ask me to fix them a baked potato with cheese and bacon. I miss those days, and having this small house of 17 brings that back in a small way.  These aren’t “my” kids, but they’re kids, and I’m able to create a home away from home for them.

Back to the kitchen and the broccoli-cheese soup.

The roux was made, the ingredients were doing their thing, and the experimental tasting began.  The broth, onions I’d sweated, half & half and the required pound of cheese were melted together and I took my first sample. And immediately grabbed a Coke to get the taste and feel out of my mouth. There may be nothing worse than relatively cold, wet, melting cheese. Even the texture was repulsive. At that moment, I remembered why I never order broccoli-cheese soup, even though it always sounds really good.

I’m funny about food. I’m big on using all the senses, but texture is at the top of the list of priorities. And appearance.

Lentil soup is out of the question. Green and wet aren’t going to happen. Can’t eat tomato soup — red should stay solid. Tomatoes should be sliced or at least there should be visible chunks in pasta sauce or vegetable soup, but totally liquid red — can’t get past it. And mushroom soup? That yucky brown color coupled with squishy diced mushrooms pretty much puts my appetite into a tail spin.

I’m a taco fan because you’ve got your crunchy, cheesy and veggie food groups with a touch of heat from the sauce. Now, that’s real food. I’m big on the crunchy food group. I like my veggies sauteed or grilled with a little bite to them, and my pasta al dente. A little “under the tooth.”

Both Mexican and Italian lasagnas work, as well as most other Mexican and Italian dishes, even without the crunchy food group, because the squishy food group is good, too. You’ve got your meat, textured tomatoes in the sauce, beans (Mex) or veggies  (Italian), either pasta noodles or tortillas for added texture, and lots of gooey, hot, bubbly cheese — sometimes, even crunch around the sides and brown and crispy on the top if it’s been put under a broiler for a few minutes. There’s nothing like the crunchy cheese around a good grilled cheese sandwich. But wet cheese? Yuk. Double Yuk. Bad dream Yuk.

I love a good Italian Sausage soup. Lots of veggies, some carbs, I use soy protein crumbles instead of meat (higher in protein, low in fat, and tastes the same as meat when cooked in a sauce) and plenty of spinach to add color, flavor and iron for the girls who don’t know how to take care of themselves in the food category.

I’m lucky at this house. No gluten-free/lactose-intolerant, semi-Kosher, walnut/avocado/blueberry allergies, vegetarians and vegans. OK, I’ve got one Pescatarian (but she’s recently converted, so I don’t think it will last long.) These are “throw food at us and we’re good to go,” girls. I’m free to create as I choose. And since the last house director put out chips and dip for dinner, they’re thrilled to have anything that resembles real food.

And chili….what more could a girl ask for? Lots of chunky tomato base, kidney/chili/black beans, some corn, lots of spices and crunchy corn bread filled with corn and jalapenos. Good stuff.

And back to cheese. I love it cooked, on sandwiches, in fondues, in casseroles where it’s cooked and has a texture to it, but that one taste of not-yet hot, wet, slimy soup is more than I could take.

SO, I did what any self-respecting texture/taste/sight eater would do — added another two pounds of cheese and some potato flakes to add body to the wet mass that refused to thicken. With a can of High-Octane Coke to buffer the taste, I sampled it a couple more time — but never without the back-up to erase the taste/texture.

The girls are still eating it (I make enough for them to eat for a couple of days and take to work with them), and telling me how great it is, but I can’t get through that first repulsive taste to scoop it out of the pan, nuke it and eat it.

But the upside is that my 17 new charges are happy to have homemade food, one of their vegetarian boyfriends comes over from time to time when he knows I’ve made chili or something else with the soy based protein,they take pictures of my food to send to friends in the other sororities on campus, and I get my fix on cooking, baking, spoiling, and being more a “mom” than I could be in houses with chefs who viewed even my pie nights as an intrusion on their territory.

On this Sunday morning, my baby girls are eating lunch from a fully-stockied kitchen along with their broccoli-cheese soup and are happy as little clams.

Me? I’m headed to Del Taco for a couple of tacos and a High-Octane Coke.

More this week — an update on Sophie and one on me.

Until then, be careful out there. You’re important to me.

 

 

IT’S OVER ……. IT BEGINS

Most of you know what’s been going on in my life, but for those who don’t, here’s the Revised Standard Version.

On December 7, 2007, I was slugged by a collegiate rugby player who didn’t like the idea that I wanted his mean, drunk ass out of my first sorority house at 1:30 in the morning. That moment changed my life.

I had been training for a marathon, and could no longer walk a block. My mind was foggy. I became emotionally bankrupt. Over the last five years, I’ve been held prisoner by a workers compensation system that’s about as functional as our Congress.

It was impossible to take a job out of California or even leave for an extended period of time because there might be a hearing and I’d have to be in northern California on a moment’s notice. On my “world tour,” I couldn’t go farther than Oklahoma because we were expecting a settlement by the end of August and I might have to get back.

During that five years I didn’t receive one day of physical therapy, but I couldn’t get my own medical treatment because they could say it countermanded their treatment, and I’ve been terrified to exercise for fear of reinjuring already demolished areas of my body. That’s enough. You get the idea. Pete Thatcher tells me I’m on a pity party, but that’s not the case. Given the choice of confronting that entitled punk to keep him from throwing my girls around like ragdolls or hiding in my apartment, I would make the same choice. And as far as pity party, I think I’ve handled this situation and everything it’s thrown at me about as well as anyone else could.

But that was then, and this is now.

1/3/13 Was NOT an unlucky day for me.

My attorney called on December 23 to tell me we had a settlement offer. About three years ago, I came up with a number, and their initial offer was higher. Not a hell-of-a-lot higher, but enough that rather than go to a hearing on February 12, and hope for a settlement then. If that didn’t happen, we would have had to set a court date and this thing would have gone on even longer. I agreed to the initial offer. Period. End of story.

He was leaving for the holidays and would be back the 2nd, but would keep checking his e-mails and work with opposing counsel to get the thing finalized by the end of the year.  That came and went, and I heard nothing.  On January 2, I e-mailed him and asked if we had heard anything; found that he hadn’t, and figured they were just playing us to see how low we’d go. Called Abbi and told her I was ready to go to the hearing, and call their bluff, but……

Yesterday at 8:30am, earlier than Jeff is usually in the office, he called to say he had settlement papers in his hand. Long story short (I know, too late),

Five years

Seven Days

Seventeen Hours

and Two Minutes after Ross Kilroy slugged me, I faxed my signed and witnessed paperwork back to Jeff. It is over.

I guess the process from here is that my attorney adds his signature, sends the paperwork to their attorney, then the papers go somewhere back east, and if there are no glitches (it is the government, after all, and if NASCAR didn’t get enough money, I may have to pony up something), a check will come from somewhere else.  They have 30 days to get that check to me. So, by February 5th, if I don’t have two checks in my hand (one for settlement, one for future medical), they owe me another 10%.

It was what happened after that fax left that hit me. What now? I’ve waited five long years for this moment. What now? My mind went blank.

I went to see “Jack Reacher,” based on One Shot by Lee Child (and if you haven’t discovered Lee Child yet, you need to quickly). Ate popcorn. Let my mind go blank. When the movie was over, I went back to the car, put the top down, and called Laurel.

Laurel and I met at a house directors’ meeting in Seattle about six months after my assault. She was taking a house at USC, and so was I. Within a couple of months, we were on the same campus and getting together whenever possible. It was like we’d known each other forever. Of everyone I know, she’s been with me throughout the whole process. It was Laurel who allowed me to live in her lovely condo in Vegas from March through May.

She picked up the phone, I said, “It’s over,” and started crying. In the last two years, I had cried exactly two times: when Hollywood died, and when Baby Kitty died. I’ve worked so hard at keeping it together and staying strong, that I’ve lost the ability to feel, and yesterday, for a brief few minutes it came back. It’s a start. Not that I’m going to go out looking for reasons to cry, but it felt good to know it could happen again.

Over the years, I’ve become a recluse. Two summers ago I tried to have my “coming out” party with the CHS Beach Babes, but that didn’t turn out well. First, I signed up because I wanted to get to know Lynn Crislip better (a newly-found sorority sister), and see both Lynn Tincher and Margi Moses, who had attended the first get-together. What I got was a house full of women I didn’t know.

I’m not the same person who left Charleston, WV in ’69. I’ve lived all over the world, experienced different cultures and have a different perspective that those who have been married to the same man since right after high school graduation or who have stayed in Charleston or moved to South Carolina and live close enough  that they socialize on a regular basis. Until Facebook, I hadn’t talked to anyone from CHS since I skipped town. Forty years. I was kicked off the island and not invited back. And that’s OK. But the trip didn’t accomplish the anticipated goal, which was to get me out of the house and — well — get a life.

My NorCal friends are now more like acquaintances — I mean, it’s been four years since I’ve been to a Sisters in Crime meeting or hung out at Book Passage. And I haven’t lived anywhere long enough since then to get close to anyone. Not like before — I used to always have a bunch of friends I could call to meet for drinks, or go to a movie or just hang out. I need that again.

And writing. I haven’t written anything new for at least a year. My hands hit the keyboard, and my mind works for awhile, but a couple of chapters later, I’m blank. I can see who the characters are, know where the scenes are supposed to go, and even see the ending. But I can’t get there. Have three projects and God only knows how many short stories started, but…….

Adventure? I was the gutsy gal who, at 20, threw everything she owned into a Fiat 850 Spyder with $300 in her checking account and started over in Columbus, Ohio. Who swam out into the ocean until she couldn’t see land and let the waves pull her back in. My one attempt at getting that back was zip lining at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, which should have been thrilling. It’s the longest, steepest zip line in the country – 2/3 of a mile, and you get up to 60 mph flying on a piece of wire.  I didn’t feel a thing. Again, no affect. God, I want to feel again.

Dating? If you read my book, you’ll understand why that hasn’t happened. First of all, I haven’t met anyone interesting, and second, my one attempt was so hysterical that when Peggy read it she laughed so loud it woke me up. I used to be a really interesting person. Now, I have to find that person again. The one whose emphasis isn’t on survival or fighting with a system that makes no sense. I want to meet my Sigma Nu.

And here we are ….. 5:15pm on January 4. This has taken all day to write.

Woke up this morning, made a couple of phone calls, laid back down with Sophie, and didn’t get out of bed (or, mattress & sleeping bag…but that’s about to change) until after 3pm.

It feels like the weight of the world is off my shoulders, even though the settlement monies aren’t here yet. I can breathe.

I’m so happy in my mini-house-mom job in Fullerton. Granted, it’s part-time. But the board is supportive, the girls are thrilled to have someone who cares that their needs are met, and things are slowly getting done. I won’t be leaving, assuming they want me to stay, for a very long time. They understand that I write. They have no problem with me being gone a couple of days for a book signing….or to just get away…and I may do just that. I feel the ocean calling for me and it might be a good idea to spend a couple of days at the beach.

The rest? Laurel suggested taking some time to decompress. And take baby steps. That makes sense. Wouldn’t know how to jump into a new life anyway.

Know I want to go mining for gems in North Carolina. Know I want to take a “world tour” where there are no restrictions, and may take some time this summer to do just that. There’s a lot of world I haven’t seen yet, and I hear Delta’s ready when I am.

I know one thing. I’ve set a goal for something I want to do on my one-year anniversary next January 3. I’ve only shared that with Laurel; Abbi knows about it, but not a goal date.

But today starts my Year Without Fear. Steps I take may seem miniscule to you, but they’ll be monumental to me. And I’m inviting you to join me on this new leg of my life. During that year, my goal is to step out of my (dis)comfort zones and take some chances. Turn my life into an adventure again. Make Abbi as proud of me as I am of her. And make up for lost time.

So, don’t be surprised if I call you someday and say, “Why don’t we_____________?”

Blogs will be more frequent, because I’m including you in my life. Wherever it leads. And I hope you’ll laugh, cry, and maybe even gasp with me along the way.

Today’s first step was putting my life …. and my heart ….out there for the world to see. That in itself is a risk, but that’s part of the gameplan. So we’ll see what tomorrow brings.  Heck, I may even get my hair cut.

Until next time, take care of yourself. Love freely. Call a friend and appreciate you have someone who wants to walk around a mall or share a drink with you. Walk up to a veteran and thank them for their service. Volunteer with an organization that needs you. Mentor a kid. Dance like no one is watching. And be careful out there. I need you. And maybe, just a little bit, you’ll need me.