HANGING AROUND (The Stranglers)
December 7, 2019

Our lives took a very unexpected turn on Wednesday.  After months of prep for Cole’s spinal fusion surgery, we checked in on the surgery day, readied ourselves for a long day of waiting and surgery only to learn that when Cole was put into traction pre-surgery (but already under effects of anesthesia), his nerve function diminished so the surgery was put on hold.

Instead he was outfitted with a halo, a barbaric looking traction crown that is basically screwed into his skull, that has a handle of sorts at the peak from which weights on a pulley are looped through to slowly stretch out his spine over the next weeks in preparation for eventual spinal fusion surgery on the 24th.  Over the course of 20 days, the weight will go from five pounds to almost forty.  During this process Cole will remain at CHLA and will be monitored and x-rayed to ensure that the traction is working and that his spinal cord is handling the stretch well.

Fortunately, there is a wheelchair that’s been modified with the same traction set up so Cole can move around the hospital a bit during our stay, though after three days in a single room are already taking their toll.  We’re all adjusting to our new “home” and my husband and I are trying to work out reasonable schedules so that one of us is always with Cole (one parent is allowed to sleep there so we’ve been switching off nights) and one of us is working to maintain life – i.e. taking care of our dog, house, groceries, etc.).  We’re both able to work remotely, though given the longevity of our stay, we’ll each likely  go into our respective offices next week since there’s no real need for two of us to be in hospital all day, every day.  The trick is going to be finding some balance of normalcy in this weird existence.

Following the surgery on the 24th, we’ll have another week of post-surgery recovery so we’re likely there into the New Year.  Definitely not the holiday season we anticipated.  We’ll just be hanging around CHLA, making the best of a challenging situation.

THANKFUL (Kelly Clarkson)
November 26, 2019

Thanksgiving has become a holiday where we, my pod of three, frequently find ourselves trying to figure out how and with whom we’ll celebrate.  For a number of years we joined extended family for a chaotic feast, but it wound up not being quite right so we hosted a couple of dinners ourselves, inviting other families and friends who were similarly without plans.  We’ve been invited to share with the clan of a close friend several times, a dinner that was always warm, festive, and full of great conversation and cheer.  The clan has since grown considerably so the dinner is now relegated to clan only, which seems right.  Last year we again hosted with a couple of families, one of which was transitioning via a divorce and in need of a new experience to help get through the holidays.  And this year, we’ll be sharing with them and their extended family as guests – though they’re as close to us as family comes – in what may be their new tradition.

Thanksgiving is likely my favorite holiday when it’s well celebrated.  It’s a time of year where we tend to reflect on things that are important and where the best part of the festivities is simply spending quality time with those we hold dear, sharing a glorious meal, laughter, gratitude, and care.  The celebration can languish over wine and conversation, or move to game playing like our dinner last year, leaving bellies full and souls sated.  In my mind, it’s the perfect dinner party…

This year particularly I’m counting my blessings as we are all gearing up for Cole’s surgery next week.  My nerves are right at the surface, so I’ll be spending some of the long weekend preparing the house and freezer for our week at the hospital, and then those first few days home when we’re getting our bearings in terms of caring for Cole and his new back.  We work well once we figure out the best routine so I know it will get easier as we settle home.

I plan to decorate Cole’s room with heaps of holiday decorations so it feels festive and Christmasy.  It’s likely he’s going to miss his favorite holiday celebration, Christmas Eve dinner at his uncle’s house.  The two share a love of Christmas and my brother puts on a wonderful Christmas Eve celebration every year that Cole looks forward to and adores more than anything in the world.  I want to transform his room into a winter wonderland while he’s still in hospital.  It breaks my heart that he’ll miss it this year so I feel compelled to create some new holiday cheer for him to make up for it just a little.

I’m grateful to have a tribe of friends and family who will be around to support Cole, Dan and I through this.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!  I hope you’re festivities are full of love and joy!

CHRISTMAS PRESENT
December 14, 2015

Cole is the most difficult child to buy gifts for. He wants for nothing. Not because we give him everything he wants, but because he truly doesn’t enjoy a lot of things. In some ways he’s a very simple fellow. He loves his television, occasional movies and books, and music.

He does the occasional art or science project and will every so often partake in a game. He doesn’t care much for action characters or cartoon figures or toys. He’s happy to cook with my husband and I when the mood strikes him, but there’s not much he needs in terms of cookware or accessories.

He likes to dress simply, which means during the week to school dress code – mostly navy sweat pants or shorts and a white long or short sleeved athletic shirt, and non-navy sweats or shorts and t-shirts on the weekend.

He’s got all kinds of gadgets and gizmos meant to make his life more accessible or fun. They don’t all work but we try. Same goes for seating. We love the Chill Out Chair and so does he, but various beanbag chairs haven’t fared as well like the yogibo, a giant beanbag like thing that now resides upstanding in his room, hovering over everything and taking up space that doesn’t exist.

Sadly, there are way more misses than hits in our repertoire of gift selections for Cole. All given with well intentions and all given with hope and lots of consideration that they’ll be hits. Alas, we’re gearing up for another holiday and he’s always the last one to be checked off the “gifts” list.

Besides coming up with some great ideas for ourselves, we also have the additional pressure to make suggestions for everyone else. Gift cards to movie theatres and places like Amazon, Target and Barnes & Noble are always on the list. He enjoys taking his friends to a movie and it’s useful to have the gift cards in the event we stumble upon something that seems wonderful for him.

I’m looking towards high school with some of the ideas this year. He and his para-professional are going need to be on top things come high schools so I’m focusing on ideas that will help, like a portable scanner so they can scan his homework, classwork, and school notices into an app that we can all access with the hope that less things get lost or don’t make it home. It’s not a glamorous gift for a fourteen year old boy but it’s practical and needed.

For Cole, people are more important to him. He likes going to lunch with his grandma each week and he looks forward to seeing friends and family and enjoys being able to share some frozen yogurt or a movie with them. Genuinely…that’s the stuff that makes him happiest. I love that about him but I still wish I could find the one great thing that makes his eyes gleam and smile widen!

ALL TOGETHER NOW
November 11, 2015

We’re homebound for the holidays. We will spend Thanksgiving with friends, and then look forward to our traditional Christmas Eve with the family, close and extended, at my brother’s house, and likely New Years Eve with friends. We’ll probably sneak in a Hanukkah latke fest or two as well!

This will be our second Thanksgiving spent with dear friends, and their extended family and friends, a warm, welcoming group of lovely people, and kids who welcome Cole into their fold of games and fun. It’s a relaxing evening, full of interesting conversation, laughter, and really great food and wine.   I’m already checking out recipes. I love any opportunity to cook for lots of people.

Traditionally I do a latke night in honor of Hanukkah one of the eight days (my husband is a non-practicing Jew). We’ve had friends and/or family over, and we’ve done it with just the three of us. I love making latkes and it’s our annual excuse to over indulge in their glory. Some years we’ve lit the candles in the Menorah each night, and others we’ve foregone this lovely tradition.

Christmas Eve is Cole’s favorite night of the year (we all love it but no one more than he). He loves the traditions that my brother and his family have cultivated over the past fourteen years. The evening rarely deviates from the routine, which is one of the reasons Cole loves it so much. It works with his sensibilities. It sort of takes on a movie like quality as we move from warm chatter, festive cocktails and nibbles, to a traditional roast beef dinner, complete with Yorkshire pudding, to all donning wacky Christmas hats to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, to Santa dropping by for some fun with the kids, the holiday trivia challenge which leads to the White Elephant gift stealing game, and finally coffee and sweets. We leave happy, exhausted, and already looking forward to the next year.

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For the past few years we’ve done New Years Eve with friends. One family has generously supplied the house, I try to do a lot of the cooking, and we fill it out with delights from others. The evening involves lots of yummy cheese and wine and champagne, and more great conversation, laughter, and cheer. The kids do their own thing in the den, starting out with a movie, and moving to watching the ball drop on one of the network shows. It’s a perfect way to end and start years – sharing time with people we love.

This year, my in-laws will be with us at the end of the year. They’ll be here for a couple of days prior to Christmas, and then back again just after through the New Year. We’ll likely host a couple of small get-togethers for them. They have some friends here in LA, and also to give our LA based family a chance to visit with them as well. I’m looking forward to seeing them, and especially for Cole to have some time with them. They live in Hawaii and it’s not that easy, or affordable, for us to travel there often, so I feel like it’s important to make the visit special.

In the scope of all of this, I also want to try to host a couple of casual, almost open house type get-togethers. I feel like the holidays are a perfect excuse to open up your home and invite friends from different walks of your life to come share some cookies, or wine, or dinner. I’m feeling the need to connect with people I love. Maybe it’s a response to the somewhat isolated summer we had. I’ve been wanting people around and to be around people.

Perhaps also there’s a part of me that knows some of these traditions will likely change next year. Cole and his friends will likely all attend different high schools, my eldest niece will be in her first year of college, who knows where, and lives will have moved on. It’s all part of our natural evolution but it makes me want to wrap my arms around everyone and hold them close, never letting go.

Damn, I’m getting really sentimental as I age!

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 7)
April 3, 2015

We are a multicultural family. My husband is Jewish, and I am, well, spiritual in my own way. My brother’s family is the same, his wife and daughters are Jewish, and he’s his own guide. Multiculturalism has become so common; nearly all of our friends are too.  A nice thing, besides exposing our kids to different practices, etc., is that families develop their own traditions.

One such family invited us to a potluck Passover dinner this evening. The event is being held at their new home, and while respectful of the traditions and holiday, the meal will not be entirely kosher or in keeping with the tradition. They assigned the dishes each guest would bring. We were assigned to bring chicken liver. I think traditionally it’s a chopped chicken liver dish with hard boiled egg and some other things mixed in but I’m honestly not a big fan of the most rustic versions of chicken liver pates so I made the Chicken Liver Pate from Animal’s recipe (Animal is a James Beard Award winning, top restaurant in LA that has an amazing chicken liver toast dish on their menu that I LOVE).

I had to overcome the ick factor of raw liver. I had never cooked it and am really only a fan of it in smooth, buttery rich pates. Snobbery, perhaps, but I managed to get the slimy livers into a buttery pan and cook them off without actually ever touching them!

Just let me say, it was all worth it. It was actually not as terribly as I imagined it would be and the pate came out beautifully. It tastes like Animal’s! I feel embolden! I can make pate! I scooped it into some jam jars, a couple for the party and smaller ones to share with a couple of office mates who are also fans of Animal’s dish.

Happy Passover, Good Friday, Easter…whatever you honor. It’s nearly the weekend, which pleases me!

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ANIMAL’s CHICKEN LIVER TOASTS (I tripled this recipe for a party of 30 people)

  1. 1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons unsalted, grass fed butter, softened
  2. 1 pound chicken livers, trimmed
  3. Salt
  4. Freshly ground black pepper
  5. 1 medium red onion, diced
  6. 4 thyme sprigs
  7. 20 ¼ inch think warm baguette toasts
  8. Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
  9. 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  10. Shallot Jam (recipe included)

Brush the bread slices lightly with olive oil. Grill or toast the bread until crispy. Rub with garlic.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Season the livers with salt & pepper. Cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add the onion and thyme and cook over moderate heat until the onion is translucent and softened, about ten minutes. Add the livers and cook until heated through for about 2 more minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Discard the thyme.

In a food processor, puree the liver mixture and remaining 6 tablespoons of butter until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and season well with salt. Transfer mixture to serving bowl, jars and cover with plastic wrap pressed onto surface. Refrigerate until chilled and firm.

Spread onto the toasts and top with Shallot Jam for garnish.

SHALLOT JAM

  1. 2 tablespoons canola oil
  2. 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
  3. ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  4. 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  5. Pinch of salt

In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened and translucent, about ten minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook until thick and jam like, about five minutes. Season with salt to taste.

WHEN I WRITE THE BOOK
January 14, 2015

This year I’m determined to learn how to better promote my blog. I’d at least like to figure out how to link it to a Facebook page I created for it. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy sharing my writing more than I previously thought I did. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m full of great wisdom or extraordinary insights or humor but I love the outlet writing gives me and I’ve come to understand that writers write to be read. While I may not be a writer per se, not yet anyway, I will admit that sharing my words is satisfying.

Writing is simply a medium of expression. Like an art, it’s best when shared. I harbor a dream of completing a novel that I’m writing. Well, of completing one of the projects I’ve started over the years. I kept journals for many years and thoroughly enjoy the art of letter writing. I save them and I send them. An actual letter through the post is a treasure. I have letters from my dad, my grandmas, old boyfriends and friends. I save the beautiful cards my husband gives me, and a small scrap of paper where he wrote a sweet nothing to me before I traveled when we were dating. I have a box somewhere with notes passed between girlfriends and I during class in middle and high schools. Words to paper make me swell with joy.

Since my early twenties, I’ve had countless false starts at writing my debut novel. For a short time I toyed with the idea of a collection of short stories. They’re a medium that I greatly admire. The art of the short story is far more of a challenge than a full blown novel because to create a magical short story, it has to unfold so much more quickly but still have the impact of completion. I’ve started all sorts of different chapters of different stories, never to finish any of them. It’s only recently that the idea struck for a book idea that I might actually finish. That accomplishment would feel amazing, even if nothing were to come of it. Just the idea of completing a book…it’s enough.

I READ A LOT
January 7, 2015

I love to read. I try to read every night even if it’s just a page or two, though more often than not I get lost in whatever book I’m reading and waking up in the middle of the night, having rolled over onto my tablet or book. I favor mysteries, especially international crime thrillers, but I like to mix it up with novels and short stories, and the occasional bit of non-fiction.

As I’ve written previously, my dad kept journals of his readings. I have one of his handwritten little notebooks detailing the readings of 1968. It’s something I treasure. I often think about doing the same thing but then I move on to the next book without recording anything about the last. Perhaps this year I’ll attempt to document my reading. It would be fun to look back at the list several years later and be reminded of where I got lost in 2015.

I’m currently reading The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. It’s set in 1922 in England, post WWI. A formerly privileged widow and her unmarried twenty something daughter, finding themselves without means, have to take in tenants to keep their home. The tenants, a young married couple, change their lives, especially that of Frances, the daughter, in compelling ways. I’m only half way through and am enjoying it. I am, of course, looking for the thriller element, even where it doesn’t exist.

I have a tendency to build upon my readings in my head whilst reading. I imagine where the story might be heading and sometimes I’m right. Sometimes I’m not. I have a tendency to devour series and as I grow more familiar with both the author and the main characters, I can often take the journey one step ahead of the book. It doesn’t spoil it for me. It actually makes me feel more a part of the investigation or story.

I love to read with Cole too. I’m not great at voices but I sometimes try to give accents to characters or different intonations or inflections. He’s forgiving and when we find a book he likes, he’s a great partner and listener. I wish he could find it in himself to get lost in books the way I did when I was young. He’s got limited options for independent time, in the house, or in his room and reading would be my first choice for him. He can listen to books on Audible, or read on his tablet, using his eyes to turn pages, but he’s not embraced the escape of a good book. It’s my dream that he will one day understand the magic of a well told story.

SUNDAY MORNING
January 4, 2015

The Sunday before the end of two weeks off work and school…There’s competing desires to indulge in utter laziness and to end the break feeling accomplished and productive.

Thus far, the laziness is winning out although we’re into the second load of laundry and the boy has had a mani-pedi to get ready to return to school well groomed. (it’s only just 10:00 am and we didn’t get out of bed until 8:30 so maybe we’re slowly moving towards productivity).

Today is intentionally plan-free. No one in the family seems to be excited about the prospect of returning to the work/school routine, although I suspect that a day or two into the routine, we’ll all be happier. Much as I love having time off and enjoy the time together, it can be challenging to find things to do that satisfy everyone, unless there is some travel involved, which unfortunately was not the case this holiday season.

There are lots of things to get organized for both the boy and myself. I’m preparing some healthy, easy snacks for the work week, have to pack up my new under the desk elliptical machine, along with some new note books – an effort to stay on top of everything – and making sure I have a plan of action for the day. Two weeks off means a lot of catch-up, even with most of my industry being off too.

We also need to get the boy organized for the return to school. That means sorting through the backpack and binder and making sure everything’s current and any outstanding assignments are complete, packing up supplies for the week, and resetting the general mindset from vacation to school. That’s the trickiest part. The school year has been a bit rough so he’s no longer excited and eager to return to school – a first for him. Until this year, he truly wished he could live at school. He loved it that much.

More laundry, quick errands run, and we’re once again back home and trying to motivate to get the random things handled. Why is it that after having two weeks of holiday, this final day is the day when everything seems hard to do? It’s that dragging one’s feet thing, hoping to eek every last second of holiday out of the day. We can’t even motivate to take down the Christmas stuff. That will wait until next Sunday…

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY
December 24, 2014

For us, today is the day. It’s Cole’s favorite holiday of the year, perhaps his favorite day of the year. It’s also the most trying day because the anticipation of the evening (our Christmas Eve festivities begin at 5pm) has his every emotion heightened and his patience limited. Did I say limited? Non-existent would be more accurate.

Despite having celebrated Hanukkah with family, and his cousin’s birthday with family, as well as some other fetes, it’s all about tonight. Nothing compares to Christmas Eve at Uncle Dennis’.

I love that he finds it so joyful and that he loves it so much. I wish I could share just a speck of the delight he finds it with all of you. His happiness continues through into the New Year, which always makes the start of the year hopeful and bright.

With that in mind and heart, I wish all of you a bright, shiny New Year and much love during the holiday season.

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU
December 16, 2014

Selecting presents for my son is one of the most frustrating quandaries I face each birthday and holiday season. He’s never been very interested in toys, and even less so now that he’s officially a teenager. Electronics are tough because they need to motorically accessible to him and most are not. He’s happy enough with gift cards and the random clothes and accessories, but it never seems satisfying as the gift-giver.

I scour the internet and accessibility/special needs catalogs in hopes of finding the unique items that elude me in local shops and stores. Some things seem too therapeutic and others seem too young or not quite fitting of his age.

While he likes science, I’ve learned from experience that he’s less inclined to want to do science projects at home with his parents than he would be with friends or at school or camp. He likes music, but with nearly anything he wants to listen to available for free on Spotify, CD’s are kind of passé, and the same goes with the availability of most movies and television shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or iTunes.

I love the tangibility of an actual book, but for him electronic books and audio books are more readily accessible and manageable for him. He’s got more art supplies than he’ll ever need and his room is well appointed. Which leaves the question nagging evermore…What to get the boy for Christmas!?